Real estate developer A. Alfred Taubman, namesake of the College
of Architecture and Urban Planning, still proclaims his
“I’ve never broken the law,” Taubman said
yesterday at a real estate forum in the Michigan League, adding
that he believes he was wrongly convicted of price fixing due to
his notoriety. “I was a trophy.”
In December 2001, a U.S. District Court jury in New York found
Taubman guilty of price fixing while he was chairman of the New
York-based Sotheby’s auction house. Evidence showed that
Taubman collaborated with Anthony Tennant, chairman of rival
Christie’s auction house, and the two made more than $400
million in commissions during a six-year period. In April 2002, a
judge sentenced Taubman to one year at a federal prison in
Taubman, who was released in June, said his activities in prison
included reading, exercising and playing a lot of bridge. But, he
said, the experience did not change his views of the world. He
added that he offered the University the opportunity to remove his
name from the Medical Library and CAUP.
“They refused to do so … they believed in
me,” Taubman said. He did not respond to a question about
whether he owes University alumni an apology.
In his first public address since being released from prison,
Taubman was the keynote speaker at the University of Michigan Urban
Land Institute Forum yesterday. He spoke mainly about the historic
development of Detroit, factors that led to the decline of the city
during the 20th century and the importance of Detroit riverfront
revitalization in the future.
He said that from the beginning, the Detroit River created a
boundary for communities to grow. In the early 20th century, the
invention of the car and the building of concrete roads allowed
people easier access to towns outside the city.
“You could live in the suburbs and work in the city
without depending upon public transportation,” Taubman
The automobile industry’s dominance of workers prevented
other businesses including insurance companies and banks from
flourishing in Detroit, he added.
He said middle-class flight to the suburbs created the problems
leading to the 1967 Detroit racial riots. In addition, the creation
of shopping malls and department stores in the suburbs gave another
reason for suburbanites not to venture to Detroit.
“Another reason to go downtown was gone,” Taubman
said, mentioning the construction of the Northland Mall in
Southfield in 1954. “People shop where they live.”
He also discussed efforts made in the last 25 years to bring
life back into the city, including the building of Riverfront
Apartments and the Renaissance Center.
He said the recently constructed Ford Field and Comerica Park
will bring much-needed investment back into the city, and that he
has great hope for the city’s future.
But Eastern Michigan University junior Jumel Foster, a Detroit
resident, said the riverfront should not be the only area of
“More money should be put in all areas,” Foster
said, noting sections with bad roads and abandoned buildings.
“I think more needs to be done … more attractions
Still, Business School Prof. Larry Hadley said there are
additional efforts being made to subsidize affordable housing for
Even though the riverfront has mostly expensive property,
investment there will eventually trickle down, he said.
“A rising tide lifts all boats,” Hadley said.
When asked if Taubman owed an apology to the University for his
crimes, Hadley was adamant to defend him.
“The man paid his debt to society,” Hadley said.
“I think that’s all society expects.”