22/01/2012 12:25 pm

A real estate developer whose companies – bearing the family name since the 19th century – etched their mark on the skylines of cities around the nation, including construction of the World Trade Center.” Dennis Hevesi (NYT)



Robert Tishman was born in Manhattan in 1916. His father David had taken over leadership of Tishman Realty and Construction from his father. Robert Tishman graduated from Cornell in1937, and also attended Columbia Law School. He then served in the Navy during World War II, and returned to the family business at the end of the war.

At the helm of Tishman Realty and Construction during the 60’s and 70’s, Robert Tishman grew the company into one of the largest owners and developers of office buildings in the US. During this time Tishman negotiated the contracts with the Port Authority of New and New Jersey for the World Trade Centre, also overseeing its construction (Tishman Construction is currently servicing as project manager for One World Trade Center).

Tishman Realty and Construction developed the 39-story Tishman Building at 666 Fifth Avenue and other residential building on Park Avenue, the company also managed the construction of Madison Square Garden.

Under Tishman, the company expanded throughout the US and developments included:

  • 100 story John Hancock Tower in Chicago
  • Alcoa’s twin-tower Century City Complex in Los Angeles
  • Renaissance Center in Detroit
  • Condominiums on Nob Hill in San Francisco

Tishman truly was the ultimate development. He described his the company in 1968 to Business Week as, “an intercompany conglomerate”.

“ We locate land, design the building, select the architect, work our interim and permanent financing, do the leasing, build and manage the building .”

At the time no other developer or builder held these diverse levels of capabilities. Tishman Realty and Construction was put of for IPO in 1928 and was eventually liquidated 5 decades later.

A year after Tishman Realty and Construction was liquidated. Tishman and his son-in-law started Tishman Speyer Properties, which was to become one of the largest real estate companies in the world. While president the company developed:

  • The Equitable Center in New York
  • The NBC Tower in Chicago
  • The Sony Center in Berlin
  • The MesseTurm in Frankfurt
  • The Torre Norte in São Paulo

Tishman Speyer has built 325 projects totaling 10 million metres, and currently the companies portfolio is valued in the region of $50 billion. From 1972 to 1975, Tishman held the distinguished position of chairman of the Real Estate Board of the New York. He was also Chairman, and then Honorary Chairman, of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, Associate Chairman and Charter Trustee of the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, Trustee of the Citizens Budget Commission, a member of the Real Estate Advisory Committee of Cornell University, a member of the Board of Directors of Boys and Girls Harbor, Director of the Citizen’s Housing and Planning Council, and was an Honorary Director of the Grand Street Settlement.

Before there was Trump, Tishman was the master of the deal, an expert in successful contract negotiation he believed to be successful, one must:

“Always leave something on the table for the other guy.”