Glazer was born in and grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, one of the seven children of a welder. He grew up in the Fourth and Gill neighborhood and attended Knoxville High School, graduating in 1938. He enrolled at George Washington University with the intention of becoming an engineer, but after the United States entered World War II, he left college to join the Navy. In the Navy he engaged in ship construction.
After the war ended, he returned to East Tennessee and took over the family-owned welding shop. Under his management, the business grew to become a major steel fabrication business, the Glazer Steel Corporation. With production facilities in Knoxville and New Orleans, Glazer Steel fabricated bridges and other structures for Kaiser Aluminum, the government of France, and other customers around the world.
The first building that Glazer developed was Shelbourne Towers near the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville, described as Knoxville's "first high-rise apartment building". His entry into the real estate development business occurred in 1951, when the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission selected a company headed by Glazer to build a shopping center in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. A shortage of steel resulting from the Korean War delayed construction, but the center opened in 1955.
In 1960, Glazer moved to the Los Angeles metropolitan area, where in the 1970s he developed the Del Amo Fashion Center, which was at one time the world's largest shopping mall. His company was involved in shopping center development throughout the United States, allowing Glazer to amass a considerable fortune. His name appeared regularly on the Forbes magazine "List of 400 Richest Americans"; in 2005 his net worth was estimated at $900 million.
In recent years, he has focused on philanthropic causes, particularly in support of Israel. The business school of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, established in 1995 and now named the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management, was named for him in 2007 following a major donation. In 2008, Pepperdine University opened the Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute of Jewish Studies, funded by donations from the Glazers.
He resides in Beverly Hills, California, with his second wife, Diane Pregerson Glazer, also of Jewish descent. Formerly an attorney, Diane Glazer has hosted an interview program on a local television station in the Los Angeles area. He is the father of two children. His first marriage ended in divorce.
- Glazer, Guilford H. "United States Public Records Index". familysearch. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
- Betsy Pickle, Hall of Famer's career took him from Knoxville to Beverly Hills, Knoxville News Sentinel, October 30, 2011, page 1E.
- Our Donors, The Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies, Pepperdine University website, accessed October 30, 2011
- The Oak Ridger, August 3, 1987
- #384 Guilford Glazer, Forbes.com, accessed October 30, 2011
- Glazer Business School is Upgraded to a Faculty, American Associates of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, June 2, 2010. Accessed October 30, 2011.
- Pepperdine University: "The Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies - OUR Donors" retrieved September 17, 2014