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Taubman, A. Alfred


TAUBMAN, A. ALFRED (1924– ), U.S. entrepreneur. Taubman, who was born in Pontiac, Mich., attended the University of Michigan without graduating and the Lawrence Institute of Technology, where he studied architecture. He became a store designer. In 1950, with a $5,000 loan, he formed the Taubman Company, a real-estate development and property management concern, and built it into one of the most prominent developers and managers of giant regional shopping malls in the United States. His first project in 1953 was a 26-store open-air shopping center in Flint, Mich. A few years later, he built an enclosed mall in Hayward, Calif., and then put together what was widely considered one of the finest collections of shopping malls in the world. In 2004, the average American mall had annual sales of around $340 a square foot. Taubman's malls, with high-end stores, averaged close to $500 a square foot. One of his prize malls was in Short Hills, n.j., which he bought in 1980 when there were only seven stores that were still in business. He renovated it four times until he got the right store mix: Neiman Marcus, Saks, Nordstrom, and Macy's. The mall had average annual sales of $800 a square foot. By the early years of the 21st century Taubman operated 19 shopping malls in nine states, including five in the Detroit area. In the 1970s Taubman went into business with Max *Fisher, the Detroit financier and adviser to Republican presidents. He had been Taubman's mentor since the 1950s, when he asked him to develop a chain of Speedway gas stations. Fisher and Taubman bought the Irvine Ranch in Southern California, which became one of the most profitable residential and commercial ventures in American history. It allowed Taubman, along with a group of investors that included Henry Ford ii, to buy the majority share in Sotheby's, the famed auction house, in 1983 for $130 million. The move gave Taubman entrée to the art world and to European society. In 1993 Taubman became chairman and a director of Sotheby's but in 2001 he stood trial on charges that from 1993 to 1999 he had colluded with his chief rival, Christie's, to fix sellers' commissions, violating antitrust laws and cheating customers out of $400 million. A year earlier, to settle a civil class-action suit, Taubman stepped down from his Sotheby's post and paid one-third of the more than $500 million settlement made to former clients out of his own pocket. In the criminal trial, Taubman was convicted and spent a year in prison. Taubman was a major philanthropist, giving to educational and Jewish causes. A part-time resident of Bloomfield Hills, outside Detroit, Taubman was one of the two largest all-time contributors to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, mostly anonymously. In 1999, the federation named one of its Jewish community center campuses after Taubman, a member of Shaarey Zedek, a Conservative congregation in Southfield, Mich. With a $30 million gift, Taubman endowed the program in architecture and urban affairs at the University of Michigan, where a wing of the hospital is named after him. Brown University boasts the A. Alfred Taubman School for Public Policy and American Institutions, while Harvard University has the Taubman Center for State and Local Government.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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