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Alfred Taubman, creator of indoor malls, dies at 91

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(CNN) — American suburbanites who can do all their shopping without getting wet, driving from point-to-point or looking for a new place to park, have one man to thank — Alfred Taubman.

Taubman, a real estate developer who changed the face of suburban life by popularizing indoor shopping malls, died Friday at the age of 91. The announcement was made by his son, Robert Taubman, the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Taubman, the company his father founded 65 years ago.

‘We couldn’t miss’

A. Alfred Taubman — his first name was Adolph — was born January 31, 1924, in Michigan to German Jewish immigrants.

“I started working when I was 9,” he told an interviewer in 2007. “I really wanted to make some money.”

In the 1950s, he noticed that the American middle class was moving to the suburbs. And he thought about what that might mean: All those people would need places to shop.

“Demographically, I looked at the numbers, and as far as I was concerned we couldn’t miss,” he recalled in 2007. “And we didn’t.”

Indeed not. This year, Forbes estimated his net worth at $3.1 billion.

The Sotheby’s price-fixing scandal

But if Alfred Taubman gained fame and amassed billions as one of the people who defined surburban life, he gained notoriety along the way, as well.

In 1983, he bought the renowned international auction house Sotheby’s. And in 2002 he was jailed following a conviction for conspiring with Christie’s to fix auction house commission rates to maximize profits.

He was released in 2003 after having served nine months in prison. He always maintained his innocence, saying one of his underlings had lied about him to keep from going to prison herself.

Taubman was renowned for his attention to detail and for developing some of the best-known malls in the United States.

His first project was a freestanding bridal shop in Detroit. Over more than six decades, his company operated nearly 20 properties in the continental U.S., including well-known developments such as the Beverly Center in Los Angeles, The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey and The Shops at Crystals, in Las Vegas.

His designs evolved over the years to include not only enclosed malls but various styles of open-air developments. And his influence stretched far from the American soil and into the thriving markets of China and South Korea.

Active in philanthropy

Taubman remained active until the end of his life. He devoted much of his energy in his later years to philanthropic activities. And, just over three weeks before his death, he attended the grand opening of The Mall of San Juan with his sons Robert and William.

According to a statement by Robert Taubman, the patriarch had dinner in his home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, on Friday, then died of a heart attack.

In addition to his sons, Robert and William, he is survived by a daughter, Gayle Taubman Kalisman, who is co-chair of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute’s advisory board, two stepchildren, and his second wife, Judith Mazor Rounick, a former Miss Israel.