David Geffen donating $100 million to New York’s Lincoln Center


Since his heyday as a music executive and entertainment mogul, David Geffen has given away hundreds of millions of dollars to organizations that now bear his name. In Los Angeles, there is Geffen Playhouse and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the Geffen Contemporary in downtown.

Now his name will be associated with a major cultural institution in New York.

On Wednesday, Lincoln Center announced that Geffen is donating $100 million toward the major renovation of Avery Fisher Hall, which will be renamed David Geffen Hall in September at the start of the New York Philharmonic’s 2015-16 season.

Geffen’s gift is expected to be paid out over the course of eight years, leaders at Lincoln Center said. The naming rights for Avery Fisher Hall, which first opened in 1962, recently came up for bid in an effort to raise money for the hall’s renovation, which is slated to commence in 2019 and is expected to cost approximately $500 million.


The naming gift isn’t the the largest sum the Brooklyn-born, Malibu-ensconced Geffen has given away. In 2002, he made a $200-million, unrestricted donation to UCLA’s medical school, which was renamed after him.

A decade later, he gave another $100 million to UCLA to create a scholarship fund for medical students. He is the university’s largest individual donor.

But Geffen’s donation is believed to rank among the largest private capital gifts that Lincoln Center has ever received. Leaders said it exceeds by threefold the largest individual donation for its recent campus renovation, which was completed two years ago and whose total cost was $1.2 billion.

In 2008, David H. Koch gave $100 million to renovate the New York State Theater, which was renamed after him.

Katherine Farley, who is the chair of Lincoln Center, said that she has known Geffen socially for a couple of years.

“We talked about a lot of different ways he might get involved with Lincoln Center,” she said in an interview. When the naming rights for Avery Fisher came up, “it seemed like this was the perfect match between David and us... He jumped at the idea, and said yes right away.”


In a prepared statement on Wednesday, Geffen said that “as a native New Yorker, I recognize that Lincoln Center is a beacon to artists and musicians around the world. To be involved with such a beloved and iconic institution is deeply satisfying.”

Geffen’s donation will hopefully spur others to contribute to the renovations, said Jed Bernstein, president of Lincoln Center. “People get more excited the more real a project seems,” he said.

An arts patron as well as a major collector of art, Geffen has donated to cultural, educational and health-related organizations around L.A. Last year he donated $25 million to the new museum of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The museum’s theater will be called the David Geffen Theater.

Geffen’s office said he gave a $5 million gift to UCLA for the Westwood Playhouse, now the Geffen Playhouse, in 1994 and a second $5 million gift in 2002.

Avery Fisher Hall was first known as Philharmonic Hall. In 1973, it was renamed for the late audio pioneer Avery Fisher.

Lincoln Center leaders said that its agreement with Geffen provides for his name to be on the hall in perpetuity. They said that they were unaware of any previous donation by Geffen to Lincoln Center, though they acknowledged that he regularly attends concerts and performances.


Geffen is something of a familiar face for classical music fans in L.A. He has been known to attend L.A. Philharmonic concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT


12:30 p.m.: Added comments and information provided in interviews with leaders of Lincoln Center.

March 6, 10:38 a.m.: Clarified donation to Geffen Playhouse using information provided from Geffen’s office.