Los Angeles Philharmonic receiving $20-million gift from David Bohnett

The Walt Disney Concert Hall is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Philharmonic is receiving a $20-million gift from technology entrepreneur and philanthropist David Bohnett, the orchestra announced Wednesday. The gift, which is the second largest in the orchestra’s history, is being made in recognition of Deborah Borda, the orchestra’s president and chief executive.

Bohnett has served on the orchestra’s board of directors for ten years. He was once the board president and now serves as an executive committee member.

The L.A. Phil said that Bohnett’s gift will be divided into two equal parts, with $10 million to endow the newly named David C. Bohnett Presidential Chair, which Borda occupies, and the other $10 million to launch the David C. Bohnett Presidential Fund for Discovery and Innovation, which will help the orchestra explore ways of reaching new audiences.


Bohnett’s pledge to the orchestra ranks second in size behind the $25-million donation from the Walt and Lillian Disney Foundation for the Phil’s endowment, which was made a little more than a decade ago.

An Internet entrepreneur, Bohnett founded the GeoCities site, which he later sold to Yahoo. He is also a technology investor who has been involved with a number of start-ups through his private equity firm, Baroda Ventures.

Speaking by phone, Bohnett said there are no restrictions on the money aside from the $10 million earmarked for new audience development.

He estimated that over the years, he has given close to $25 million to the L.A. Philharmonic. “I’m particularly interested in broadening access and outreach to underserved communities,” he said.

Bohnett said the orchestra’s new fund will aid in the exploration of digital platforms and applications as a way of reaching audiences. “What if you go to a concert, and you’re so excited that you want to listen to it on the way home? There’s a possibility for immediate access to this music,” he said.

Borda said in a separate interview that the gift was an “unexpected honor. We’ve been partners in running this organization for many years. It so clearly honors and reflects the institutional DNA of the Philharmonic.”


She said that the specific terms of Bohnett’s gift remain confidential, but that donations of this magnitude are often paid out over time.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT