Donald A. Brown, a founder of the Washington real estate development-investment company JBG who also was a donor of millions of dollars to cultural and charitable institutions in the Washington area, died March 6 at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He was 90.
The cause was cancer, said his wife, Ann Brown, a former chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Mr. Brown formed a legal partnership in the mid-1950s with Ben Jacobs and Joseph Gildenhorn, and they soon moved into real estate investment under the name JBG Cos., an initialism of the three principals.
With money from private investors, they started buying garden-style apartments in Beltsville and Suitland in suburban Maryland. Later they bought buildings in downtown Washington and Northern Virginia.
They moved into residential and hotel management and development. Among their projects were the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown, Wolf Trap music and arts center in Vienna, Va., and the Geico headquarters building in Chevy Chase, Md.
By 1997, JBG’s real estate portfolio featured 21 commercial properties, including several office buildings, two hotels and a shopping center. That year JBG sold most of its commercial assets and management services portfolio to the Canadian real estate investment trust TrizecHahn for $560 million.
Donald Arthur Brown was born in Washington on Feb. 1, 1929. His father was fatally shot in a 1964 robbery of the family’s liquor store. His mother was active in Jewish and civic organizations.
Mr. Brown graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1949 from George Washington University, where he also earned a bachelor of law degree in 1952 and a master of law degree in 1958. He served as a legal officer in the Navy Reserve.
Over the years, he had served on the faculties of Harvard Business School, the Yale School of Management and George Washington University’s graduate business school. He was a past president of the influential Federal City Council civic group.
He was a donor to Washington National Opera, Arena Stage, the National Symphony Orchestra, more than a dozen schools and A Wider Circle, a charity that helps individuals and families rise out of poverty.
In the last decades of his life, Mr. Brown had lived in Washington during the spring and autumn months, Martha’s Vineyard in the summer and Palm Beach Gardens in the winter.
Survivors include his wife since 1958, Ann Winkelman Brown; two daughters, Cathy Brown of Austin and Laura Rodgers of Norwood, N.J.; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
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