Threshold Resistance: The Extraordinary Career of a Luxury Retailing Pioneer
In this candid memoir, A. Alfred Taubman explains how a...)
In this candid memoir, A. Alfred Taubman explains how a dyslexic Jewish kid from Detroit grew up to be a billionaire retailing pioneer, an intimate of European aristocrats and Palm Beach socialites, a respected philanthropist and, at age 78, a federal prisoner.
With a unique blend of humor and genius, Taubman shows how selling fine art and antiques really isn't that different from marketing root beer or football, and offers penetrating insights into that quintessential palace of commerce, the luxury shopping mall. Alfred Taubman may not have invented the modern shopping center but, in the words of The New Yorker, "he perfected it."
Taubman's life has been a storybook success, with its share of unique challenges. A pioneer builder and innovative real estate developer, he was also a brilliant land speculator, operator of a quick-serve restaurant chain, and owner of a major department store company. But what seemed like the pinnacle of his career, buying and reinventing the venerable art auction house Sotheby's, would lead to his conviction in an international price fixing scandal.
Despite the twists and turns, Taubman's life and business philosophy can be summed up in one evocative phrase: Threshold Resistance. Understanding and defeating that force—breaking down the barriers between art and commerce, between shoppers and merchandise, between high culture and popular taste—has been his life's work.
A. Alfred Taubman, American real estate developer. Recipient Business Statesman award Harvard Business School Club of Detroit, 1983, Sportsman of Year award United Foundation Detroit, Southeast Michigan Chapter March of Dimes Birth Defects, 1983; named Michiganian of Year The Detroit News, 1983; named one of Forbes 400: Richest Americans, since 2006.
Taubman was born in Pontiac, Michigan on January 31, 1924 to Jewish immigrants Fannie Ester Blustin and Philip Taubman.
His parents came to the United States from Białystok, in northeastern Poland. His mother was his father's second cousin. Philip took a job with the Wilson Foundry Company in Iowa, transferred to Pontiac in 1920, became a fruit farmer, then began developing commercial real estate and custom homes.
Taubman's parents lost everything in the Depression of the 1930s, and Taubman at age 9 had to find work to help support the family.
Student, University Michigan, 1948; Doctor of Laws (honorary), University Michigan, 1991; Student, Lawrence Institute of Technology, 1949; DArch (honorary), Lawrence Institute of Technology, 1985; Doctor in Business (honorary), Eastern Michigan University, 1984; Doctor in Education (honorary), Michigan State University, 1993; HHD (honorary), Northern Michigan University, 1995.
Alfred Taubman, one of America’s most successful entrepreneurs, was active in numerous businesses, philanthropic and civic initiatives.
Recognized as a pioneer in America’s retailing and shopping center industries, Mr. Taubman was the founder of Taubman Centers Inc. (NYSE:TCO), one of the nation’s leading real estate developers and operators of upscale regional malls. He was chairman of the Irvine Company from 1977 to 1983, and as chairman of Sotheby’s Holdings from 1983 to 2000 introduced revolutionary customer-focused innovations to the international art market. He also served as a director of Manufacturers Bank of Detroit, Chase Manhattan Bank of New York, United Brands, R.H. Macy Co., and Getty Oil Company
PHILANTHROPIC AND CIVIC LEADERSHIP
Mr. Taubman established and funded the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at the University of Michigan, the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School, and Brown University’s Public Policy and American Institutions program. He was the principal benefactor of the University of Michigan’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Health Care Center, Medical Library, and Biomedical Science Research Building – – each of which bears his name. Mr. Taubman was a major contributor to Lawrence Technological University and its A. Alfred Taubman Student Services Center. As a trustee of Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, he was the principal benefactor of the school’s A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education. He also provided lead funding for Wayne State University’s Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights.
Mr. Taubman was president of the City of Detroit Arts Commission and an honorary director of the Detroit Institute of Arts. He was a former trustee of the Whitney Museum of American Art, chairman emeritus of The Archives of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution, a member of the National Board of the Smithsonian Associates, and benefactor of the Taubman Gallery at Mount Vernon. He was an honorary chair of Reading Works, Detroit, and a founding member of Detroit Renaissance, Inc. He chaired the Michigan Partnership for New Education, and was a member of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Michigan Gaming. Mr. Taubman was a governor of the Urban Land Institute Foundation, a founding chairman of the Advisory Board of Wharton’s Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center, and served as chairman of the National Realty Committee, Washington, D.C. A major contributor to the Jewish Federation and United Jewish Foundation of Metro Detroit, Mr. Taubman and his late friend Max Fisher provided funding for the Max M. Fisher and A. Alfred Taubman Community Center and Park in Ramla, Israel.
Author: Threshold Resistance: The Extraordinary Career of a Luxury Retailing Pioneer, 2007.
In the later years of his life, Alfred Taubman directed most of his attention and resources to civic and philanthropic initiatives. He established and funded the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at the University of Michigan Medical School, the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School, and Brown University's Public Policy and American Institutions program. He was the principal benefactor of the University of Michigan's College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Health Care Center, and Medical Library - - each of which bears his name - - and was a trustee of Detroit's College for Creative Studies, whose A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education opened in September 2009.
Mr. Taubman was president of the City of Detroit Arts Commission; chairman emeritus of The Archives of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution and member of the National Board of the Smithsonian Associates; founding member, Detroit Renaissance, Inc.; and a Governor of the Urban Land Institute Foundation. Mr. Taubman was the founding chairman and holds the title of chairman emeritus of the Advisory Board of the University of Pennsylvania's Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center. He was a former chairman of the National Realty Committee, the predecessor of the Real Estate Roundtable, Washington, D.C., and served on the Advisory Board of the Brookings Institution.
Taubman at age 9 had to find work to help support the family. He has said of that time in his life: "I really wanted to make some money."
"God help us if we ever take the theater out of the auction business or anything else. It would be an awfully boring world"
"In the most intimate, hidden and innermost ground of the soul, God is always essentially, actively, and substantially present. Here the soul possesses everything by grace which God possesses by nature"
"Judge yourself; if you do that you will not be judged by God, as St. Paul says. But it must be a real sense of your own sinfulness, not an artificial humility"
"Such sins, even if they do not kill all grace in us, do harm, nevertheless; and though they are only venial in themselves, they make us apt, ready, and inclined to lose grace and to fall into mortal sin"
"Such sins, even if they do not kill all grace in us, do harm, nevertheless; and though they are only venial in themselves, they make us apt, ready, and inclined to lose grace and to fall into mortal sin."
"Your meditations may be as profound, as exalted, as devout as you like; you may practise every pious exercise you can manage, but all this is as nothing in comparison with the Blessed Sacrament. What we do may be godly, but this sacrament is God Himself!"
Quotes from others about the person
“MICHELLE WATSON: "Taubman was a wonderful company to work for the short time I lived in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Mr. Taubman will be missed"
THOMAS G. JORDAN AND ELIZABETH COURTNEY :"May this brilliant creative man who has done so much for so many be remembered by all. Through his hard work and very generous contribution of resources and time he has added substantially to the success of The Taubman Company and the various charitable ventures he has supported. Our condolences to the Taubman family and the personnel at The Taubman Company and allied ventures for the loss of this great man"
MARK SCHLISSEL:"He was a great man– successful, generous and warm. But he also was someone who held all those around him to high standards. He helped drive excellence at Michigan not just through his philanthropy, but by the advice he gave to multiple presidents and the fact that he held us to account to get the very most out of everything we did.
Our entire community will deeply miss Alfred and his commitment to our campus and students.
On a personal level, although I had only known Alfred for less than a year, he was extremely warm, kind and welcoming to me. I am so glad we got to thank him once again in public at the recent Taubman School groundbreaking. I will miss him dearly."”
Married Reva Kolodney, December 1, 1949 (division July 1977). Children: Gayle Kalisman, Robert S., William S.
Honors awarded Mr. Taubman include the Jewish HHonors awarded Mr. Taubman include the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan’s 2014 Leonard N. Simmons History Award; the 2012 Goodfellow of the Year Award from the Detroit Newsboys’ Goodfellows Fund; the 2010 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award; Urban Land Institute Lifetime Achievement Award; Museum of Arts and Design Visionaries Award; Detroit Institute of Arts Lifetime Service Award; Sportsman of the Year Award from both the United Foundation of Detroit and the Southeast Michigan Chapter – March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation; and Detroit News Michiganian of the Year.
Honorary degrees bestowed upon Mr. Taubman include: Doctor of Laws degree, conferred by the University of Michigan; Doctor of Business, conferred by Eastern Michigan University; Doctor of Architecture, conferred by Lawrence Technological University; Doctor of Education, conferred by Michigan State University; Doctor of Humanities, conferred by Northern Michigan University; Doctor of Fine Arts, conferred by the College for Creative Studies; and Doctor of Public Service, conferred by Ferris State University.
Born in Pontiac, Michigan, Mr. Taubman was a life-long resident of the Detroit area. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and attended the University of Michigan and Lawrence Technological University. He is the author of the best-selling business memoir, Threshold Resistance: The Extraordinary Career of a Retailing Pioneer.