The Berkowitzes: Meet A South Florida Family Keen on the Arts

The first in his family to attend college, UMass Amherst economics graduate Bruce Berkowitz served as a senior vice president and portfolio manager at Lehman Brothers, and also as managing director and senior portfolio manager at Smith Barney. He founded Fairholme Capital Management in 1997, and The Fairholme Fund in 1999.  For its first six years, Berkowitz ran Fairholme from an office in Short Hills, New Jersey. In 2006, though, Berkowitz, his wife Tracey and family moved to the warmer climes of South Florida.

The family's Fairholme Foundation prioritizes the Sunshine State.  For instance, the family directs tens of millions to the University of Miami. Besides education, the foundation also funds medicine, entrepreneurship and mentorship. The Berkowitzes strongly invest in the arts. 

The Fairholme Foundation states that it is "committed bringing world-class artworks to South Florida," including James Turrell's light space Aten Reign, and Richard Serra's several hundred foot sculpture, Passage of Time. To that end, in the 2013 fiscal year, the well-endowed Fairholme Foundation (which posted assets of nearly $350 million in a recent year), directed $30 million to a new vehicle called The Fairholme Unlimited Foundation. The Fairholme Foundation acquires art for Fairholme Unlimited to loan to other museums and in preparation for an exhibition space set to open in a few years in Fairholme's future Miami headquarters building. The Fairholme we're talking about here, though, is Berkowitz's firm. That's right, the new Fairholme headquarters on Biscayne Boulevard will be part office building and part museum. 

The Berkowitz family's Fairholme Unlimited Foundation is not unlike other vehicles with art acquisition in mind. Consider, for instance, the Northeast-US based billionaire Johnson family and their Brookfield Arts Foundation, established back in 1995. 

Related: Edward C. Johnson Fund: Grants for Visual Arts

While the only trustees on the books for the Fairholme Foundation are Berkowitz and Tracey, the Fairholme Unlimited Foundation's president is actually daughter Chloe Berkowitz, an art historian and collector of contemporary art. Chloe is also a trustee of Pérez Art Museum Miami, which the family has supported via their Fairholme Foundation. Other grantees include the Miami Art Museum, New World Symphony, National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, and National YoungArts Foundation.

Unfortunately for grantseekers, while the Fairholme Foundation maintains a web page, it neither lists clear application guidelines nor provides a clear avenue of contact. Arts organizations in Southern Florida, though, should keep apprised of this family's giving. 

Related: Bruce R. Berkowitz