Michigan billionaire Adolf Alfred Taubman has died at the age of 91.
A. Alfred Taubman, who donated hundreds of millions of dollars to universities, hospitals and museums, died on April 17 at his home of a heart attack, according to son Robert S. Taubman, president and CEO of Taubman Centers, Inc.
“This company and all that you stand for were among the greatest joys of his life,” Robert S. Taubman wrote in a message to the company’s employees.
“He was so proud of what this wonderful company he founded 65 years ago has accomplished.”
The self-made billionaire’s philanthropy and business success — including weaving the enclosed shopping mall into American culture — was clouded by a criminal conviction late in his career.
A. Alfred Taubman’s business success spanned from real estate and art houses to the hot dog-serving A&W restaurant chain, for which he traveled to Hungary to figure out why the country’s sausage was so good. He also became a major backer of stem-cell research.
It was his rearrangement of how people shop — parking lot in front, several stores in one stop close to home — that left a mark on American culture.
Taubman Centers, a subsidiary of his Taubman Co., founded in 1950, currently owns and manages 19 regional shopping centers nationwide.
Born January 31, 1924, in Pontiac, Michigan, to German-Jewish immigrants, Adolf Alfred Taubman worked as a boy at a department store after school near his family’s home, which was among the custom houses and commercial buildings developed in the area by his father.
Recognizing the booming post-war growth of the middle class, particularly in the Motor City, A. Alfred Taubman launched his first real estate development company in 1950. His first project was a freestanding bridal shop in Detroit — but he had his eyes on something bigger. He had noticed shoppers responding to the convenience of “one-stop comparison shopping opportunity,” he wrote in his autobiography.
When a friend suggested a shopping plaza in Flint, A. Alfred Taubman’s company did something radical for the time: stores were pushed to the back of the lot and parking spaces were put up front. It was a success, his young company took on larger-scale developments in Michigan, California and elsewhere in the 1950s and early ’60s.
A. Alfred Taubman served as chairman of Sotheby’s Holdings, Inc., parent company of Sotheby’s art auction house, from 1983 to 2000, and was a partner in international real estate company The Athena Group before he was tangled in a price-fixing scheme.
A. Alfred Taubman was convicted in 2001 of conspiring with Anthony Tennant, former chairman of Christie’s International, to fix the commissions the auction giants charged. Prosecutors alleged sellers were bilked of as much as $400 million in commissions.