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General Growth’s Matthew Bucksbaum Dies at 87

The former ceo and a cofounder of General Growth Properties Inc., died Sunday, Nov. 24. He was 87.

Matthew Bucksbaum, former chief executive officer and a cofounder of General Growth Properties Inc., one of the largest shopping mall operators in the U.S., died Sunday, Nov. 24, at his home in Chicago. He was 87.

This story first appeared in the December 2, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The cause of death was complications from Alzheimer’s disease, according to the family.

Bucksbaum was born and raised in Marshalltown, Iowa, and was the first in his family to graduate from college, earning an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Iowa. During World War II, Bucksbaum served in the Army Air Forces as a cryptographer in New Guinea.

Bucksbaum’s venture into the shopping mall arena started in 1954 when he, along with his brothers Maurice and Martin, were running the family grocery business and were looking to expand and open a store in a shopping center under construction in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The shopping center development had been struggling at the time and the brothers decided instead to sell their grocery business and take over the development project.

By 1964, the brothers had five malls in the company that was then known as General Management. With its growing success, the business began to expand to other cities in Iowa and throughout smaller cities in the Midwest, and built dozens of open air shopping centers and enclosed malls. In 1970 the company went public as General Growth Properties. It went back to private ownership in 1985 and public again in 1993.

Bucksbaum, known for his expertise in development and operations, was instrumental in leading the company to the forefront of real estate investment.

After acquiring Homart, Sears’ shopping center unit in 1995, GGP moved its headquarters to Chicago. In 2004 the business purchased The Rouse Co., adding Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston and Water Tower Place in Chicago to its portfolio.

However, in an uncertain recession climate of 2008, the market for commercial mortgages, which the company depended on, had dissipated. In 2009, General Growth Properties filed the biggest real estate bankruptcy in U.S. history after being burdened by debt from acquisitions including the Rouse purchase. The company exited bankruptcy in 2010.

At present, the Chicago-based real estate investment company owns over 100 regional malls across the U.S. and has been expanding into urban markets.

In addition to his brother Maurice, Bucksbaum is also survived by his wife, Carolyn; a daughter, Ann Friedman, and four grandchildren.