A. Alfred Taubman

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A. Alfred Taubman
Born Adolph Alfred Taubman
(1924-01-31)January 31, 1924
Pontiac, Michigan
Died April 17, 2015(2015-04-17) (aged 91)
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Nationality American
Education University of Michigan
Occupation Entrepreneur
Known for Designing the modern indoor shopping mall
Net worth DecreaseUS $ 2.7 billion (Sept 2013)[1]
Spouse(s) Reva Kolodney
(1948–1977; divorced)
Judith (Mazor) Rounick (1982–2015; his death)
Children 3 with Kolodney:
--Gayle Taubman Kalisman
--Robert S. Taubman
--William S. Taubman
2 stepchildren:
--Christopher Rounick
--Tiffany Rounick Dubin
Parent(s) Philip Taubman
Fannie Ester Blustin
Interior of The Mall at Short Hills.
Taubman pioneered the modern shopping mall concept. Two stories let shoppers make a complete circuit past every store. Artificial lighting supplements fading daylight and entices people to keep shopping past dusk. Unlike old-fashioned city downtowns in which car-laden streets hampered across-the-street shopping, the mall increases exposure. Pictured is The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey, which was developed by Taubman's company.

Adolph Alfred Taubman (January 31, 1924 – April 17, 2015) was an American real estate developer and philanthropist from Michigan.[2] He pioneered the modern indoor shopping mall and was described by CBS News as a "legend in retailing" who became wealthy developing upscale shopping malls.[3] He built shopping mall developer Taubman Centers into a retailing powerhouse. He wrote Threshold Resistance: The Extraordinary Career of a Luxury Retailing Pioneer in 2007.[4]


Taubman was born in Pontiac, Michigan on January 31, 1924 to Jewish immigrants Fannie Ester Blustin and Philip Taubman.[2] His parents came to the United States from Białystok, in northeastern Poland. His mother was his father's second cousin. Philip took a job with the Wilson Foundry Company in Iowa, transferred to Pontiac in 1920, became a fruit farmer, then began developing commercial real estate and custom homes.[5]

Taubman's parents lost everything in the Depression of the 1930s, and Taubman at age 9 had to find work to help support the family. He has said of that time in his life: "I really wanted to make some money."[3]

Shopping mall development[edit]

Taubman studied architecture at the University of Michigan where he was a member of Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity and Lawrence Technological University, but graduated from neither. He wondered where middle-class families moving to the suburbs would shop. "Demographically, I looked at the numbers, and as far as I was concerned we couldn't miss. And we didn't," he said.[3] Taubman chose upscale areas for lavish shopping centers, offering fountains and prestigious anchor stores like Neiman Marcus.[3] Taubman is famous for his attention to detail such as choosing terrazzo tiles at Short Hills. He said: "|The only point that the customer actually touches the shopping center is the floor. They've got traction as they're walking. Very important. Some of our competitors put in carpet. Carpet's the worst thing you can have because it creates friction."[3] Real estate developer and partner Louis Dubin spoke glowingly about Taubman: "He is the most knowledgeable person I have ever met with the planning and design of real estate ... He's an incredible adviser. There's not a building we build that we don't ask him to look at the plans. He critiques everything–the parking, the closets. He's very meticulous. He has the best eye I've ever seen in my life.[6]

Taubman's hard work and business acumen paid off. Developments such as the Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey continue to be ranked among the most profitable shopping centers in the country.[3] Since the early years, he made a fortune which Forbes magazine estimated at $2 billion.[3] He married Judith Mazor who was the 1962 Miss Israel.[7][8] He was on the list of Forbes 400 Richest Americans for two decades.

Taubman bought A&W Restaurants in 1982.[9] He said, "There is more similarity in a precious painting by Degas and a frosted mug of root beer than you ever thought possible."[10] He sold A&W to Sagittarius Acquisitions in December 1994.[9]

From 1983 to 1984, Taubman was the majority owner of the Michigan Panthers of the United States Football League. Although the Panthers acquired a fairly loyal following and won the first USFL title in 1983, the USFL's decision to move from the spring to the fall led Taubman to merge his team with the Oakland Invaders for the 1985 season, with himself as majority owner of the Invaders. That team folded along with the rest of the USFL after the 1985 season.

In October 2003, his real estate firm Taubman Centers survived a hostile takeover bid by the Simon Property Group and Westfield America.[11]

He also invested in the real estate investment firm of his stepdaughter's husband, Louis Dubin, in the 1990s and early 2000s.[6][12]

Picture of a six story building
Taubman donated funds for this building at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The Taubman building in January 2006.


Taubman bought the ailing British auction house, Sotheby's, in 1983, acting as a white knight when the company was threatened by a hostile and unwanted takeover by Marshall Cogan and Stephen Swid of General Felt.[13][14] Many in the snobby art world "scoffed," according to CBS News. He said: "We were just merchants ... shopping mall guys."[3] But he turned around the floundering auction house by redesigning the New York headquarters with such additions as luxury boxes for clients' privacy as well as escalators. "I wanted to create an open feeling where all the goods were available to everyone," he said.[3] He revived the fortunes of Sotheby's, which had been slumping in the eighties; he took the company public in 1988. His family divested controlling interest in Sotheby's by September 2005.[15]

Antitrust conviction[edit]

In the early 2000s, an investigation into alleged price-fixing between Sotheby's and rival auction house Christie's led to a confession by Sotheby's CEO Diana Brooks of an elaborate price fixing scheme with her counterpart at Christie's, Christopher Davidge.[3] In a plea bargain arrangement, prosecutors offered to keep her out of prison if she agreed to implicate Taubman. She did, and thereafter Taubman was convicted in a jury trial of price fixing.[16][17][18] He was fined $7.5 million (USD) and imprisoned for ten months in 2002 for anti-trust violations.[19][20][21] Taubman was released in 2003.[22]

Taubman insisted on his innocence in his autobiography Threshold Resistance, which appeared in 2007.[4] He has said that Brooks "lied many times" under oath and said "If she discussed it with me I would have thrown her out of my office in five minutes."[3] According to Taubman, Brooks was just protecting herself from going to jail.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Taubman was married twice:

  • In 1948, Taubman married his college sweetheart, Reva Kolodney. In 1977, they divorced after 29 years of marriage.[23] They had three children:

In 1982, he married Judith Mazor Rounick[23] (b. 1943 as Jehudit Mazor), the daughter of a paste jewelry importer-exporter[27] and a former Miss Israel in 1962.[28] Judy grew up in Israel and had two children from a previous marriage to clothing manufacturer Herbert Rounick: Christopher Rounick and Tiffany Rounick Dubin (formerly married to real estate developer Louis Dubin).[23][29] Judith's brother is Boaz Mazor who is the sales director for Oscar de la Renta.[27][30]

Taubman died on April 17, 2015 of a heart attack at the age of 91 in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.[31]


Picture of a modern office-like building with extensive glass facade.
The A. Alfred Taubman Student Services Center at Lawrence Technological University has an extensive glass facade and modern design. Picture taken in November 2006.

Taubman has donated large sums to the University of Michigan, and many buildings there are named after him, including the A. Alfred Taubman Biomedical Science Research Building, the Taubman Health Sciences Library and Taubman Health Care Center. A school within the university is also named for him: the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Taubman is also a major sponsor of disease research: his latest donation, a gift of $5 million to support the University of Michigan's Dr. Eva Feldman's and Dr. Yehoash Raphael's research, was aimed at the development of new treatments for Lou Gehrig's Disease and deafness, respectively.[32] In 2011, Taubman donated $56 million to medical research. These donations brought his lifetime giving to Michigan to $141 million, making him the largest donor in the school's history at the time. Stephen M. Ross surpassed him in 2013 when he donated $100 million to both Michigan's athletic department and business school, putting his total donations at $313 million.[citation needed]

He also donated to the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University, and The Taubman Center for State and Local Government at Harvard University. The A. Alfred Taubman Student Services Center at Lawrence Technological University was completed in 2006.[33]

The A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education at the College for Creative Studies was completed in 2009, in which Taubman contributed $15 million to the $145 million restoration and remodeling of what once was the General Motors Argonaut Building.[34]

Further reading[edit]

  • Mason, Christopher. The Art of the Steal: Inside the Sotheby's-Christie's Auction House Scandal. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2004. ISBN 0-399-15093-5
  • Taubman, A. Alfred. Threshold Resistance: The Extraordinary Career of a Luxury Retailing Pioneer. ThresholdResistance.com New York: Collins. 2007 ISBN 978-0-06-123537-5

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Forbes The World's billionaires: Alfren Taubman September 2013
  2. ^ a b Robert D. McFadden (April 18, 2015). "A. Alfred Taubman, Former Sotheby’s Owner and Mall Developer, Dies at 91". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-04-19. Adolph Alfred Taubman was born in Pontiac, Mich., on Jan. 31, 1924, one of four children of German-Jewish immigrants, Philip and Fannie Ester Blustin Taubman. His father was a builder, but the family was hit hard in the Depression and the schoolboy, who stuttered, was dyslexic and had difficulty reading and writing, took part-time jobs. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Caitlin A. Johnson (April 15, 2007). "For Billionaire There's Life After Jail". CBS News. Retrieved December 29, 2009. Alfred Taubman is a legend in retailing. For 40 years, he's been one of America's most successful developers of shopping centers. 
  4. ^ a b Thane Peterson (April 30, 2007). "From Slammer Back To Glamour". Business Week. Retrieved December 29, 2009. Shopping mall magnate and onetime Sotheby's (BID ) owner Alfred Taubman, 83, may be a convicted felon, but he's continuing to insist on his innocence in his just-out autobiography, Threshold Resistance: The Extraordinary Career of a Luxury Retailing Pioneer (Collins, $24.95). Writing on his business triumphs, Taubman is heavy on the boilerplate. But he gives a juicy personal account of the Sotheby's-Christie's price-fixing scandal that sent him to the slammer. 
  5. ^ Taubman, A. Alfred.Chapter One: "From Pontiac to Ann Arbor" excerpt from "Threshold Resistance: The Extraordinary Career of a Luxury Retailing Pioneer" – HarperCollins Publishers
  6. ^ a b Smith, Jennette (April 4, 2005). "Athena Group gives Taubman a real estate avenue.". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved November 2, 2009. New York City-based Athena was founded in 1993 by CEO Louis Dubin. [dead link]
  7. ^ "#340, Taubman, A Alfred" Forbes 2001 400 Richest Americans
  8. ^ "#278, Taubman, A Alfred" Forbes 2006 400 Richest Americans – 09.21.06
  9. ^ a b History @ A&W Rootbeer
  10. ^ Taubman@ Bartleby.com
  11. ^ Murphy, Tara."Taubman Bid Gets Sweeter" Forbes.com – 01.15.03
  12. ^ Hayt, Elizabeth (September 26, 1999). "Bringing the Party to Sotheby's". The New York Times. Retrieved November 2, 2009. In 1984, she entered Georgetown University (where she met her future husband, Louis Dubin, a real estate developer)... 
  13. ^ "White Knight"Time magazine – Monday, June 27, 1983
  14. ^ Rohleder, Anna. "Time Line: The Rise Of Christie's And Sotheby's"forbes.com
  15. ^ "A. Alfred Taubman work= The New York Times". 
  16. ^ "Ex-Sotheby's chair convicted on price fixing charges"CNN.com – December 5, 2001
  17. ^ "Ex-Sotheby's boss convicted" – CNN.com-Europe – December 5, 2001
  18. ^ "Dan Ackman, "Outclassed"". The American Lawyer, Feb. 2002. 
  19. ^ Rohleder, Anna. "Who's Who In The Sotheby's Price-Fixing Trial"forbes.com
  20. ^ "Ex-Sotheby's chairman sentenced", CNN Money Magazine – April 22, 2002
  21. ^ Thane Peterson (April 30, 2007). "From Slammer Back To Glamour". Business Week. Retrieved December 29, 2009. In the book, former Inmate 50444-054 also offers entertaining glimpses of his 9½ -month stay at a federal prison in Minnesota during 2002–03. His cellmate, who was convicted of drug dealing, wanted the billionaire to adopt him, regularly waking Taubman in the wee hours to press his case. 
  22. ^ Runk, David."Taubman sheds light on Sotheby's scandal"Associated Press, The Boston Globe – April 8, 2007
  23. ^ a b c d e f Threshold Resistance: The Extraordinary Career of a Luxury Retailing Pioneer By A. Alfred Taubman retrieved August 10, 2012
  24. ^ Medicine at Michigan: "A. Alfred Taubman: The Vision, the Legacy – Taubman’s extraordinary $100 million commitment vastly expands transformative medical research at Michigan and ranks Taubman as the U-M’s most generous benefactor" by Jane Myers Spring 2011
  25. ^ Taubman Company Website: Robert S. Taubman – Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer retrieved August 10, 2012
  26. ^ Taubman Company Website: William S. Taubman – Chief Operating Officer retrieved August 10, 2012
  27. ^ a b San Francisco Gate: A day in the life of ... Boaz Mazor" by Carolyne Zinko August 22, 2004
  28. ^ Pagentopolis: "Jehudit Mazor" retrieved August 10, 2012
  29. ^ New York Times: "Bringing the Party to Sotheby's" By ELIZABETH HAYT September 26, 1999
  30. ^ [[New York Social Diary: Sunday in New York] March 27, 2006
  31. ^ "Mall mogul A. Alfred Taubman passes away at 91". WDIV-Detroit (clickondetroit.com). April 17, 2015. 
  32. ^ Gavin, Kara."Attacking Lou Gehrig’s disease from all angles: $5M gift from A. Alfred Taubman will support U-M research" University of Michigan Health System – May 23, 2007
  33. ^ A. Alfred Taubman Student Services Center @ Lawrence Technological UniversitySouthfield, Michigan
  34. ^ Howes, Daniel.[1]"CCS Center Proves Detroit Can Rebuild"] Detroit News – September 22, 2009

External links[edit]