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Mall developer A. Alfred Taubman dead at the age of 91

Prolific mall developer A. Alfred Taubman has died at the age of 91.

In a statement to Taubman Centers employees, chairman, president and CEO Robert S. Taubman said his father passed away at his home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, following a heart attack.

“This company and all that you stand for were among the greatest joys of his life,ˮ wrote Taubman. “He was so proud of what this wonderful company he founded 65 years ago has accomplished. Just last month he was in Puerto Rico to celebrate with us the grand opening of The Mall of San Juan.

“One thing that will never be taken from us is Alfred Taubman’s vision that will continue to guide and inspire us.ˮ

A. Alfred Taubman — whose tri-state developments include the Shorthills Mall in New Jersey and Stamford Town Center and Westfarm malls in Connecticut — was born in Pontiac, Mich. to German-Jewish immigrants on January 31, 1924.

As a boy, he worked at a nearby department store after school. His studies at the University of Michigan were interrupted the outbreak of World War II but, after the war, he returned to Ann Arbor to study art and architecture, later transferring to Lawrence Technological University near Detroit to take night classes while working as a junior draftsman at an architectural firm.

He launched his first real estate development company in Detroit in 1950 building stand-alone stores. On the urging of a friend, he built his first mall with parking in the front and stores at the back of the lot in Flint. It was a design that took off and he went on to build bigger developments around the country.

The company currently owns and manages 19 regional shopping centers nationwide.

Mr. 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 real estate firm Athena Group.

Although insisting he was innocent, Mr Taubman was jailed for a year following his involvement in a price-fixing scheme with Anthony Tennant, former chairman of Christie’s International.

He went on to grow his company and became a prolific philanthropist, donating large sums to the University of Michigan’s A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute and its stem-cell research program.

He also donated large sums to Harvard, Brown University and the University of Michigan, and gave millions in support of the 2008 ballot initiative in Michigan that eased restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research.

After turning over control of Taubman Centers to his two sons, Mr. Taubman made sustaining the Detroit Institute of Arts a priority. His knowledge of how shoppers negotiated malls was tapped to help reconfigure the flow of the museum, and he helped guide the DIA as president of the Detroit Arts Commission through chronic financial problems.

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