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Robert Brunswick: Looking to Break Status Quo

As a longtime entrepreneur, Robert Brunswick embraces change, whether it’s starting his own real estate firm to holding a “Shark Tank” style event for doctors to pitch their ideas.

“As an entrepreneur, you need to be willing to break the status quo and embrace change,” Brunswick told an audience of about 300 at the Irvine Marriott on Sept. 7, where he was one of five honored with a Business Journal Innovator of the Year Award.

Brunswick, the co-founder of Newport Beach-based Buchanan Street Partners, has shifted his focus in recent years with a newer venture that he started with his wife: Hoag Innovators.

The organization, which hosts competitions that enable doctors to quickly obtain funding for their projects, has invested about $4.7 million in healthcare innovations since its inception six years ago.

“He represents what this award is all about,” award presenter Kyle Leingang, a shareholder in the Stradling law firm, said at the ceremony.

Better With Age

In 1999, Brunswick co-founded real estate investment firm Buchanan Street Partners. Since its start, it’s conducted about $8 billion in transactions and currently has $1.7 billion in assets under management.

While he’s relinquished the chief executive title at his Newport Beach-based firm, he’s still active as its chairman.

The company is planning to announce a “significant” industrial acquisition in the coming weeks, Brunswick said.

He’s carefully monitoring the health of commercial real estate, which has been showing signs of weaknesses with large vacancies.

“Investing is one of those things you get better at with age,” Brunswick said. “We can really be thoughtful. Sellers are not capitulating yet. We’re probably six to 12 months away from accommodative market.”

Community Active

Brunswick, who grew up in Orange County and even worked as a lifeguard in Laguna Beach, has long been involved in community affairs.

In 2007, he established the Buchanan Children’s Charities, a nonprofit that works to improve the lives and educational opportunities for America’s children.

The charity’s signature fundraising events have included Challenge for Children, Encore for Education and the Real Estate Summit.

He is a founding member of the UC Irvine Center for Real Estate and has taught multiple commercial real estate classes to UCI undergraduate and graduate students as an adjunct professor.

Brunswick has received numerous recognitions including Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year, Boy Scouts of America’s “Good Scout Award” within Orange County and the UCI Center for Real Estate’s Philanthropist Award.

Hoag Responsibility

Brunswick is the incoming chairman of Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, the county’s second-largest hospital with $1.4 billion in revenue for the year ended Sept. 30.

“That’s a big responsibility,” he said.

The hospital is spending about $1 billion to update and expand its facilities in Irvine, including the Sun Family Campus with six new buildings on Sand Canyon Road in Irvine.

Brunswick has for years been on the board at the Hoag Foundation, the hospital’s nonprofit arm that has $550 million in assets.

Brunswick and his wife, Kitty, started Hoag Innovators in 2017.

“We came up with this concept that combined a Ted Talk with a Shark Tank with a private equity investment meeting where we all sit down and hear from the doctors about new game-changing innovations,” Brunswick told the Business Journal in a recent article.

The group’s attracted about 125 members, including 60 families. To become a member, a person must donate a minimum of $250,000 over a five-year period. Members have raised $20 million, including $10 million earmarked for future investments.

To date, the group has made 15 such investments ranging from NK Cell Therapy that supports immunotherapy clinical trials for pancreatic cancer care to Invenio’s laser imaging allowing neurosurgeons to make a more accurate and expeditious diagnosis to Germ-Zapping Robots to further infection prevention.

Brunswick, who is aiming to make a bigger endowment, is planning the next step for Innovators.

“Right now, we’re a consumer and buyer of innovation,” he said. “Going forward, we want to be a creator of innovation, innovate the ideas of the doctors.”

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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