New York Times
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 30, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 04:01 a.m. HST, Nov 30, 2013
Matthew Bucksbaum, who co-founded a family shopping mall empire that helped transform the landscape of suburbia and the habits of American consumers, died Sunday at his home in Chicago at age 87.
His daughter, Ann B. Friedman, said the cause was complications of Alzheimer's disease.
In 1954 Bucksbaum and his brothers, Maurice and Martin, were working in the family grocery business and looking to open a store in a shopping center under development in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The shopping center project was struggling, however, and instead of opening a store, the Bucksbaums decided to sell their business, which their father had started in Marshalltown, Iowa, and take over the development. When it succeeded, it became the spur for them to seek out more locations.
Expanding first to Bettendorf, Iowa, and then to the outskirts of many small cities throughout the Midwest, the company, which became known as General Growth Properties, built dozens of open-air shopping centers and later enclosed malls. The company's projects both fueled and fed on the growth of American suburbs.
Maurice Bucksbaum became less of a presence in the company as time went on, but Martin, who handled the financial side, and Matthew, who focused on operations, built a formidable partnership, and General Growth, which went public in 1993, became one of the largest mall developers in the country. (General Growth purchased Ala Moana Center, Hawaii's largest shopping center, in 1999 and owns properties on Maui and Hawaii island.)
After Martin Bucksbaum died in 1995, just as the company was beginning a period of aggressive acquisitions, Matthew continued to lead the company as chief executive until 1999. He later yielded the post to his son, John, but he remained chairman until 2006, two years after General Growth bought a competitor, Rouse Co. The $12.6 billion deal added 37 malls -- including Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston and Water Tower Place in Chicago -- to General Growth's portfolio.
At Matthew Bucksbaum's retirement the company's holdings numbered more than 200 malls encom- passing more than 200 million square feet of space, and the family was one of the country's wealthiest, ranking 105th on Forbes magazine's list of the 400 richest Americans in 2007 with a net worth of $3.3 billion.