Phi­lan­thropist, shop­ping mall de­vel­oper A. Al­fred Taub­man dies at 91

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

A. Al­fred Taub­man, the self­made Michi­gan bil­lion­aire whose phi­lan­thropy and busi­ness suc­cess — in­clud­ing weav­ing the en­closed shop­ping mall into Amer­i­can cul­ture — was clouded by a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion late in his ca­reer, has died. He was 91.

Taub­man, who do­nated hun­dreds of mil­lions of U.S. dol­lars to uni­ver­si­ties, hos­pi­tals and mu­se­ums, died Fri­day night at his home of a heart attack, ac­cord­ing to son Robert S. Taub­man, pres­i­dent and CEO of Taub­man Cen­ters, Inc.

“This com­pany and all that you stand for were among the great­est joys of his life,” Robert S. Taub­man wrote in a mes­sage to the com­pany's em­ploy­ees. “He was so proud of what this won­der­ful com­pany he founded 65 years ago has ac­com­plished.”

Taub­man's busi­ness suc­cess spanned from real es­tate and art auc­tion houses to the hot dogserv­ing A&W restau­rant chain, for which he trav­eled to Hun­gary to fig­ure out why the coun­try's sausage was so good. He also be­came a ma­jor backer of stem-cell re­search.

But it was his re­arrange­ment of how peo­ple shop — park­ing lot in front, sev­eral stores in one stop close to home — that left a mark on Amer­i­can cul­ture. Taub­man Cen­ters, a sub­sidiary of his Taub­man Co., founded in 1950, cur­rently owns and man­ages 19 re­gional shop­ping cen­ters na­tion­wide.

“Ev­ery­thing that ex­cited me that I got in­ter­ested in, I did,” Taub­man told The As­so­ci­ated Press in a 2007 in­ter­view.

Born Jan. 31, 1924, in Pon­tiac, Michi­gan, to Ger­man-Jewish im­mi­grants, Taub­man worked at a depart­ment store af­ter school near his fam­ily's home, which was among the cus­tom houses and com­mer­cial build­ings de­vel­oped in the area by his fa­ther.

He was a fresh­man at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan when he left to serve in World War II, around the time he stopped us­ing his first name, Adolph. He re­turned to Ann Arbor to study art and ar­chi­tec­ture, and then trans­ferred to Lawrence Tech­no­log­i­cal Uni­ver­sity near Detroit to take night classes while work­ing at an ar­chi­tec­tural firm as a ju­nior drafts­man.

Rec­og­niz­ing the boom­ing post­war growth of the mid­dle class, he launched his first real es­tate devel­op­ment com­pany in 1950. His first project was a free­stand­ing bridal shop in Detroit — but he had his eyes on some­thing big­ger. He'd no­ticed shop­pers re­spond­ing to the con­ve­nience of a “one-stop com­par­i­son shop­ping op­por­tu­nity,” he wrote in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy.

So when a friend sug­gested a shop­ping plaza in Flint, Taub­man's com­pany did some­thing rad­i­cal for the time: stores were pushed to the back of the lot and park­ing spa­ces were put up front. It was a suc­cess, his young com­pany took on larger-scale de­vel­op­ments in Michi­gan, Cal­i­for­nia and else­where in the 1950s and early ‘60s.

Taub­man served as chair­man of Sotheby's Hold­ings, Inc., par­ent com­pany of Sotheby's art auc­tion house, from 1983 to 2000, and was a part­ner in the in­ter­na­tional real es­tate firm The Athena Group be­fore he was tan­gled in a price­fix­ing scheme. He was con­victed in 2001 of con­spir­ing with An­thony Ten­nant, for­mer chair­man of Christie's In­ter­na­tional, to fix the com­mis­sions the auc­tion gi­ants charged. Pros­e­cu­tors al­leged sell­ers were de­frauded of as much as US$400 mil­lion (NT$12.42 bil­lion) in com­mis­sions.

Taub­man was fined US$7.5 mil­lion and spent about a year in a low-se­cu­rity pri­son in Rochester, Min­nesota, but long in­sisted he was in­no­cent and ex­pressed re­gret for not tes­ti­fy­ing in his own de­fense.

“I had lost a chunk of my life, my good name and around 27 pounds (12 kilo­grams),” he re­called in his book, say­ing he was forced to take the fall for oth­ers.

The case cast a shadow over Taub­man's ac­com­plish­ments, but it di­min­ished over the years — and his phi­lan­thropy con­tin­ued un­abated. He pledged US$ 100 mil­lion to the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan's A. Al­fred Taub­man Med­i­cal Re­search In­sti­tute and its stem­cell re­search. He also fi­nanced public-pol­icy pro­grams at Har­vard, Brown Uni­ver­sity and the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan.

Taub­man “had one of the big­gest hearts in Amer­ica,” for­mer Detroit Mayor Den­nis Archer told WWJ-AM.

On Wed­nes­day, two days be­fore his death, Taub­man smiled and lifted his hat dur­ing a ground­break­ing in Ann Arbor for a cam­pus build­ing project.

Taub­man do­nated mil­lions and spoke pas­sion­ately in sup­port of the 2008 bal­lot ini­tia­tive in Michi­gan that eased re­stric­tions on em­bry­onic stem-cell re­search and en­abled his name­sake in­sti­tute to con­duct ma­jor re­search for dis­eases — in­clud­ing amy­otrophic lat­eral scle­ro­sis, or Lou Gehrig's dis­ease.

Af­ter turn­ing over con­trol of Taub­man Cen­ters to his two sons, Taub­man made sus­tain­ing the Detroit In­sti­tute of Arts a pri­or­ity. He helped guide the DIA as pres­i­dent of the Detroit Arts Com­mis­sion through chronic fi­nan­cial prob­lems.


Real es­tate mogul and Michi­gan bil­lion­aire A. Al­fred Taub­man is shown in his of­fice in Bloom­field Hills, Michi­gan, in this April 4, 2007 file photo.

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