Mall mag­nate Al­fred Taub­man, later im­pris­oned in art scan­dal, was 91.

A. AL­FRED TAUB­MAN, 1924 - 2015

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By David Colker david.colker@la­times.com

Shop­ping mall mag­nate A. Al­fred Taub­man, who de­vel­oped the Bev­erly Cen­ter and was a past owner of the Irvine Co. — and who went to pri­son late in his ca­reer for his role in a scan­dal that rocked the art auc­tion world — died Fri­day at his home in Bloom­field Hills, Mich. He was 91.

The cause was a heart attack, his son Robert Taub­man said in a state­ment.

Taub­man Cen­ters, the com­pany A. Al­fred Taub­man founded, is one of the top mall own­ers and op­er­a­tors in the coun­try, spe­cial­iz­ing in higher-end lo­cales. Its cur­rent South­ern Cal­i­for­nia prop­er­ties are the Bev­erly Cen­ter in Los An­ge­les and the Gar­dens on El Paseo and El Paseo Vil­lage in Palm Desert.

Taub­man, who was per­son­ally worth about $3 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Forbes mag­a­zine, is also cred­ited with help­ing de­velop the sub­ur­ban mall con­cept as a place with plenty of park­ing that of­fered a “one-stop com­par­i­son shop­ping op­por­tu­nity,” as he put it in his 2007 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “Thresh­old Re­sis­tance: The Ex­tra­or­di­nary Ca­reer of a Luxury Re­tail­ing Pi­o­neer.”

He also had sev­eral side busi­nesses, in­clud­ing one that got him into trou­ble. Taub­man spent nearly a year in pri­son and paid about $7.5 mil­lion af­ter a 2001 price-fix­ing con­vic­tion while he was chair­man of Sotheby’s auc­tion house. Af­ter­ward, he con­cen­trated on phil­an­thropic work — his foun­da­tion gave hun­dreds of mil­lions to med­i­cal, arts and public pol­icy in­sti­tu­tions.

Robert Taub­man took over his fa­ther’s com­pany as chief ex­ec­u­tive. But A. Al­fred Taub­man did not sep­a­rate him­self com­pletely from re­tail. He at­tended the com­pany’s mall open­ings and kept a blog that ex­tolled the val­ues of brick-and-mor­tar shop­ping.

In March he wrote about the then-craze con­cern­ing a pic­ture of a dress on­line that ap­peared to be dif­fer­ent colors to dif­fer­ent peo­ple.

“The tech­ni­cal lim­i­ta­tions of com­puter screens make it im­pos­si­ble to ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cate such im­por­tant prod­uct char­ac­ter­is­tics as fit, color and feel,” he wrote. “There are no fit­ting rooms or tai­lors in cy­berspace.”

He was born Adolph Al­fred Taub­man on Jan. 31, 1924, in Pon­tiac, Mich., to Ger­man-Jewish im­mi­grants. By the time he was 11, he was a sales clerk at a depart­ment store.

Taub­man grad­u­ated from Pon­tiac High School and en­rolled at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan. But soon af­ter, with the coun­try at war, he en­listed in the mil­i­tary. He spent much of his time in the Pa­cific theater as an aerial pho­tog­ra­pher, tak­ing pic­tures of ar­eas — in­clud­ing Hiroshima — af­ter they had been bombed.

When the war ended, he went back to the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan but dropped out and joined an ar­chi­tec­ture firm, where he had a chance to put into prac­tice his the­o­ries on eas­ing shop­pers’ psy­cho­log­i­cal “thresh­old re­sis­tance” to en­ter­ing stores. Start­ing his own firm in 1950, he ap­plied his no­tions to whole shop­ping cen­ters, where, for one thing, he put park­ing out front with easy ac­cess to doors.

With his firm thriv­ing, Taub­man looked for new ven­tures. In 1976 he viewed from a he­li­copter the vast land hold­ings of the Irvine Co. “I wanted to be in­volved,” he re­called dur­ing a 1987 court pro­ceed­ing. “It looked like fun.” He put to­gether an in­vest­ment group that bought the com­pany in 1977 for $337.4 mil­lion — or $6,000 a share — and he be­came com­pany chair­man.

In 1983 he sold his shares to Don­ald Bren for about $200,000 a share.

That same year, he bought Sotheby’s, one of the most pres­ti­gious auc­tion houses. But a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion showed that while he was chair­man of the firm, it col­luded with ri­val Christie’s to raise the com­mis­sions paid by sell­ers, cost­ing them hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars. Taub­man’s own sched­ule books, which pros­e­cu­tors said showed coded notes from meet­ings with Christie’s ex­ec­u­tives, helped con­vict him at a high-pro­file 2001 trial. He spent about nine months at a low-se­cu­rity pri­son in Min­nesota.

In his mem­oir he protested his in­no­cence and said the con­vic­tion hurt his name. But it did lit­tle to disturb his life­style. He still had his home in Michi­gan, as well as those in New York, Lon­don and other spots. And he drew some sym­pa­thy for be­ing the only per­son sent to pri­son for the scan­dal.

Taub­man was even­tu­ally able to joke about it. At his 90th-birth­day party, he told the crowd that he’d been for­tu­nate to spend all his birthdays with fam­ily and friends, ex­cept for dur­ing the war, “and the year I took off to study the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem in Rochester, Min­nesota.”

In ad­di­tion to his son Robert, Taub­man is sur­vived by his wife, Ju­dith; daugh­ter Gayle Kal­is­man; son Wil­liam; step­daugh­ter Tif­fany Du­bin; step­son Christo­pher Rounick; nine grand­chil­dren; and one great-grand­child.

Louis Lanzano As­so­ci­ated Press

ART AUC­TION CASE Taub­man goes to court dur­ing his 2001 price-fix­ing trial. He spent nearly a year in pri­son and paid about $7.5 mil­lion for his ac­tions while Sotheby’s chair­man.

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