A. Alfred Taubman: From a Family That Lost it All

By Samuel Phineas Upham

One level of the Mall of America is about a half mile in walking distance, and the total mall represents over 4.3 square miles of potential storefronts. This behemoth is perhaps the zenith of A. Alfred Taubman’s vision for the American mall. Born in Michigan in 1924, his family suffered greatly throughout the Great Depression.

Though he did go to a University, his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. He joined the military, where he was sent to fight in the Pacific Theater. He survived the war to come home and return to school.

In the 1950s, he began his career in real estate by starting the Taubman Company. He worked almost exclusively in retail until he pivoted into hotels. Not too long into the company history, they began dabbling in small shopping centers. They owned two strips in Michigan, and then started a larger shopping center in 1961.

Taubman also had an eye for acquisitions. He bought A&W during the 1980s, turning the franchise into a mall restaurant. He also bought the auction retailer Sotheby’s, which is today one of the most widely-recognized names in International real estate.

Taubman, of Polish-Jewish decent, is the largest donor on record for the University of Michigan. He is known for making extensive philanthropic donations to the arts and the Jewish community. The University of Michigan offers new scholarships to students seeking an education in architecture and urban planning, and the school named its architecture department after him.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or LinkedIn.