Haim and Cheryl Saban are media moguls, a Hollywood power couple, and very philanthropically-minded. How much? They've pledged much of their $3.4 billion to charity, focusing on causes like healthcare, women's empowerment, and a $50 million gift to the Academy Museum. They also donate heavily to the presidential campaign but have yet to decide which Democrat they will throw their considerable weight behind. They do know that it won't be Bernie Sanders, Haim can't stand him. He thinks he's a disaster zone.
Haim, a 74-year-old immigrant from Egypt by way of Israel, started out in music and media and became a billionaire. His wife of 31 years, Cheryl runs the Saban Family Foundation, which has donated $420 million to about 1,000 causes and institutions since it launched in 2000. Causes the foundation supports include Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Birthright Israel, The Rape Treatment Center, and Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.
Saban launched Saban Entertainment in 1988. His first big break came when he managed to secure the rights to bring the Japanese series Super Sentai to the U.S. – we know it as the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. That franchise alone has generated more than $6 billion in toy sales. In 1996, he merged Saban Entertainment with News Corp. Fox Family Channel, Fox Kids international channels in Europe and Latin America and Saban's library of 6,500 episodes of animated and family programming were sold to Disney in 2001 for $5.3 billion. That spurred the Sabans on to their next mission – to donated a large portion of their fortune to causes they believe in here and in Israel. They use a 50-50 split, donating exactly the same amount to causes in both countries.
The Sabans have a net worth of $3.4 billion thanks to that Disney sale and his major stake in Univision, of which he is chairman. The Sabans have already donated more than 13% of their wealth to charity – and that doesn't include the tens of millions in political donations. The couple is one of the largest donors to the Democratic Party. Everyone wants to know who they will back in the 2020 presidential race. Haim knows one thing; it won't be Bernie Sanders who he calls a communist under the cover of being a socialist.
Cheryl and Haim met in 1986. She was his assistant. They got married in 1987. It was his first marriage and her third. The couple have a grown son and daughter as well as two daughters from Cheryl' first marriage. They come from very different places – she's from San Diego, he's originally from Alexandria, Egypt, but they both faced hard times financially growing up. Haim's family fled to Israel from Egypt due to the persecution of the Jews. His dad sold pencils and erasers door to door. They didn't have food, but Haim still had the spirit of giving. When he was a child, he was given a box of chocolates for his birthday. This was a rare treat for him. Haim passed the box around and everyone got a piece but him. As a result, Haim is absolutely livid about billionaires who do not donate heavily.
When Haim graduated from high school, he got a job managing bands in Israel and Europe and ended up building one of the most successful touring company's in Israel. He moved to France in 1975 and founded H.S. Records, which sold 18 million records in eight years. He moved to L.A. in 1983 and launched a chain of recording studios as well as a production company that became Saban Entertainment.
Cheryl was raised in San Diego, in what she describes as a very lower middle class family. Her father was a veteran who climbed poles for the telephone company for $25 a week. He worked his way up to engineer but never made more than $30,000, which was spread thin with three kids. Cheryl eventually made her way to college, became a psychologist and has authored a number of self-help and children's books.
Cheryl is the guiding force in their philanthropy. Almost all of their giving falls into one of five categories—health care, female empowerment, Los Angeles cultural and civic causes, veterans, and strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Israel. Recently, the Saban's pledged $100,000 to sponsor The Rape Foundation's annual brunch. Cheryl was raped when she was 18 and was revictimized by the police who told her she was asking for it by wearing jeans and a peasant blouse. She's been involved with the Rape Treatment Center in Los Angeles for 27 years.
One thing the Sabans definitely plan to donate heavily to is the 2020 presidential election. They will back a Democrat, once things settle down.
In the meantime, the Sabans focus on causes near and dear to them. They've donated so much money to the Los Angeles Free Clinic over the years that it was renamed the Saban Community Clinic. Cheryl used to go to that clinic when she was a single mother with no health insurance. It made an impression on her because they treated her like a person not an outcast. Cheryl continues to support people, women in particular, who find themselves without health insurance, living month to month. As for the naming rights to the clinic – the Sabans don't do that out of ego – they do it as a challenge to others in Hollywood to match their pace of charitable giving.