Walter Shorenstein

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Walter Shorenstein
Born(1915-02-15)February 15, 1915
Glen Cove, New York
DiedJune 24, 2010(2010-06-24) (aged 95)
NationalityUnited States
Alma materB.A. University of Pennsylvania
OccupationReal estate developer
Spouse(s)Phyllis Finley
ChildrenJoan Shorenstein
Carole Shorenstein Hays
Douglas W. Shorenstein

Walter H. Shorenstein (February 15, 1915 – June 24, 2010)[1] was an American billionaire real estate developer and investor. His company, Shorenstein Company, owned 130 buildings totaling at least 28,000,000 square feet (2,600,000 m2) of office space at the time of his death.[2]

Early life[edit]

Shorenstein was born to a Jewish family[3][2][4] in 1915 in Glen Cove, New York, son of a clothier.[1] His uncle, Hyman Schorenstein, was a political "kingmaker" in New York during the early 20th century, and ancestor to a number of New York politicians.[5] In 1934, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1941, he enlisted in the United States Air Force.[2]


Upon his discharge from the Air Force, Shorenstein moved to San Francisco with savings of $1,000.[6] He worked as a commercial real estate broker, becoming a partner at Milton Meyer and Co., a firm he bought in 1960 upon its founder's death and renamed after himself.[2] He and others attributed his success in business to "street smarts".[2][1]

In 1993, Shorenstein helped an investor group purchase the San Francisco Giants baseball team thus preventing the franchise from moving to Florida.[2]

Philanthropy and political activities[edit]

Shorenstein became active politically and was a significant fundraiser for the Democratic Party. He was a major donor to civic and charitable causes, as well as higher education.[2] He was prominent in the Jewish-American political and philanthropic community.[7] In honor of his daughter who died of cancer in 1985, Shorenstein founded the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy — renamed the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy in 2014 — at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He also endowed the Walter H. Shorenstein Forum for Asia Pacific Studies at Stanford University.[8] In 1993, he and Mikhail Gorbachev established the Gorbachev Foundation in San Francisco.[6]


In 1945, Shorenstein married Phyllis Finley of Wellington, Kansas. She met her husband while working as a volunteer ambulance driver at Travis Air Force Base, where Shorenstein was stationed during World War II.[9] Phyllis converted to Judaism.[10] Mrs. Shorenstein had a heart ailment and died in 1994 at the age 76 in San Francisco. They had three children:[9]


  1. ^ a b c Los Angeles Times: "Walter H. Shorenstein dies at 95; Democratic Party fundraiser and San Francisco real estate mogul" By Dennis McLellan June 26, 2010
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Robert Selna (2010-06-24). "Street-smart developer shaped S.F. skyline". San Francisco Chronicle.
  3. ^ We Are Many: Reflections On American Jewish History And Identity By Edward S Shapiro retrieved April 6, 2013
  4. ^ Jewish Telegraph Agency: "At least 139 of the Forbes 400 are Jewish" By Jacob Berkman October 5, 2009
  5. ^ Sam Roberts (2008-08-24). "An Old-Time Kingmaker and His Political Legacy". New York Times.
  6. ^ a b Keren Bankfeld (2010-06-25). "Walter Shorenstein, Real Estate Magnate, Dies at 95". Forbes Magazine.
  7. ^ "Brown the front-runner for Democratic chairman". Associated Press. 1989-01-25.
  8. ^ Stanford University Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies: "Walter H. Shorenstein Forum for Asia Pacific Studies" retrieved August 3, 2013
  9. ^ a b New York Times: "Phyllis Shorenstein, 76, Patron Of Asian Arts in San Francisco" By KATHLEEN TELTSCH June 24, 1994
  10. ^ San Francisco Gate: "Second Acts / San Francisco's Carole Shorenstein Hays has built a career on Broadway by taking calculated risks" by Steven Winn October 31, 2004
  11. ^ Federal Reserve bank of San Francisco: "Douglas W. Shorenstein Designated Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Board of Directors; Patricia E. Yarrington Designated Deputy Chair for 2011" July 23, 2010