Donald Morley Soffer
September 20, 1932
|Education||B.A. Brandeis University|
|Occupation||Businessman, investor, philanthropist|
|Known for||Development of Aventura, Florida|
|Net worth||$4.2 Billion USD (May 2016)|
|Spouse(s)||5, currently Michele King|
Donald Soffer (born September 20, 1932) is an American businessman, investor, and philanthropist. He is a real estate developer who developed Florida swampland into what was to become the city of Aventura, Florida. As of May 2016, he and his family are worth $4.2 billion.
Early life and education
Soffer was born to a Jewish family in Duquesne, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh, the son of Ida (née Kessler) and Harold “Harry” Soffer who sold appliances and owned a Studebaker car dealership. Harold's brother was Joseph Soffer (who would found the Pittsburgh-based real estate development firm, the Soffer Organization). In 1955, he graduated from Brandeis University on a football scholarship with a B.A. in economics. After school, he returned to Pittsburgh and built shopping malls for Don Mark Realty, a partnership founded by his father, Edward J. Lewis, Lewis' father, Eugene Lebowitz, and Lewis' brother-in-law, Mark Mason (Don Mark Realty would be renamed the Oxford Development Company). In 1965, Don Mark built South Hills Village, Pittsburgh's first indoor mall. In 1967, with funding from the John Hancock Life Insurance Company, Oxford Development partnered with the Arlen Realty and Development Corporation to form the DonArl Partnership and bought 785 acres of mostly swampland in South Florida for $6 million.
Donald Soffer was given the primary responsibility develop the project. Originally named Turnberry, Soffer renamed the site Aventura (Spanish for adventure) and set about to build an upper class development centered around the Aventura Country Club with a golf course designed by architect Robert Trent Jones. The project required that he drain the swamps (to the ire of environmental activists) and re-zone the property from residential single family to high-rise development (to the ire of controlled-growth advocates). With the support of then governor, Claude Kirk, the development went ahead. In 1969, Metro-Dade County approved the 23,900 condo unit master plan which included the construction of a fire station, a library, and a causeway to Sunny Isles Beach. They completed the first stage in 1970 and by 1977 had completed the golf course and added another 4,000 units. The venture was very profitable as they purchased land at $5,000 an acre and sold plots for as high as $2 million an acre in 1981.
Soffer's father died in 1972 at the age of 63 and Soffer took control of the family interest in DonArl. In 1977, the partnership with Arlen Realty was dissolved over disputes about the quality of construction with Soffer believing Arlen wanted to build too quick and cheap which would harm the brand. They divided the properties and Soffer formed Turnberry Associates out of his share. In 1983, Arlen Realty defaulted on a $39 million mortgage and went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy and Soffer and his partners purchased the remaining 68 acres of undeveloped land and built the Aventura Mall. Soon after, the remaining three partners sold their interest to the Soffers. Turnberry Isle Resort quickly earned a reputation for the playground for the rich and famous; Soffer even chartered a fleet of yachts to dock at the Turnberry Isle marina to attract the requisite clientele (including a yacht named Monkey Business, which Colorado Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart would charter in 1987 and be photographed with Donna Rice sitting on his lap). In 1987, his son Jeffrey joined the firm and in 1988, Soffer sold half his interest in Turnberry Isle Resort to Rafael Hotels for $20 million; in the early 1990s, he sold the remainder to Rafael. Responsibility for Turnberry was passed onto his son, Jeffrey Soffer, who was put in charge of new condo developments; and his daughter, Jacquelyn “Jackie” Soffer, who was responsible for leasing operations at the Aventura Mall.
Soffer has been married five times and has seven children: Marsha Fine Soffer Rappaport (born 1957), Jill Fine Soffer (born 1959), Jacqueline Soffer (born 1966), Jeffrey Miller Soffer (born 1968), Brooke Soffer Perez (born 1971), Abigail Soffer, and Rock Soffer (born 1982). He is divorced from Carol Miller Soffer, Patricia Jo Hogue Soffer, and Marjorie Wallace Soffer. In 2013, he married his fifth wife, Michele King Soffer. His son, Jeffrey Soffer, was married to supermodel Elle Macpherson. His daughter, Jackie Soffer, is married to Miami Beach real estate developer Craig Robins. His daughter, Brooke Soffer, operates various stores in the Aventura Mall and his son, Rock, also works in the family business.
- Forbes: The World's Billionaires - Soffer Family May 2016
- Biscayne Times: "Family & Fortune" by Erik Bojnansky January 2012
- Miami Herald Obituary" Ida Kessler Soffer Obituary" August 15, 2006
- The Pittsburgh Press: "Mall Magnate Harry Soffer Dies at 63" September 14, 1972
- Pittsburgh Tribune: "Obituary - Soffer, Joseph"
- The Soffer Organization: About Us retrieved April 25, 2015
- Oxford Development Company: "Oxford Development’s confidence in Pittsburgh builds with new project" December 11, 2014
- Pittsburgh Tribune: "Oxford Development retains youthful vigor" By Sam Spatter November 12, 2012
- Aventura Marketing Council: "UBS hosts Business Development Committee meeting featuring 'History of Aventura' presentation" by Comm. Bob Diamond" by Bari Auerbach Archived 2015-12-08 at the Wayback Machine February 17, 2010
- Miami New Times: "Aventura Mall To Become Second Biggest in Country, Pending Approval" February 14, 2014
- Haute Living: "The Soffer Family Soars to New Heights" By Sonia Tita Puopolo May 24, 2007
- Sun-Sentinel: "Turnberry Buys Fontainebleau - $150 Million Targeted For Upgrades" by Tom Stieghorst January 21, 2005
- Fool's Paradise: Players, Poseurs, and the Culture of Excess in South Beach By Steven Gaines pages 100 -110
- Miami Herald: "Soffer siblings expand reach of Turnberry Associates" By Ina Paiva Cordle April 13, 2014
- Miami Herald "Obituary: Ida Kessler Soffer" August 15, 2006
- New York Times: "Paid Notice: Deaths FINE, MARTIN R." March 16, 2008 | "Beloved uncle of Marsha Soffer and her husband Jon Rappaport. Beloved friend of Kathleen Devein, Melissa Ramirez, uncle to Jill Soffer"
- Miami Herald: "Miami football finally unveils plans for $34 million "Carol Soffer Football Indoor Practice Facility" by Susan Miller Degnan September 23, 2016
- Miami Herald: "Photo gallery: UM announces plans for $34 million practice facility" September 23, 2016
- New York Daily News: "NO ROD AROUND THE CLOCK" April 8, 1996
- Haute Living Magazine: "Haute Living Celebrates Cover Girl India Hicks with Vhernier and Ruinart" by Hadley Henriette November 4, 2015
- Daily Mirror: "The Body with a head for figures: But is Elle Macpherson repeating past mistakes?" By Rachael Bletchly March 14, 2013
- Wall Street Journal: "A Day in the Life of Craig Robins - The real estate developer who helped turn Miami into a global destination for design is bringing scores of luxury fashion brands to the revived Design District" By CHRISTOPHER ROSS December 1, 2014