I was thrilled, invigorated, and not much worried about the risks that come with real estate development except for occasionally late at night, when I would worry a bit.
The transition from the old public company was now complete. We were independent and private and we had never left home. We still occupied the same offices, at 666 Fifth Avenue, and our major clients were as they had been. Moreover, in the years to come, The Rockefeller Center Corporation continued to utilize our Construction Management services just as often as they had in the past, and just as though we were still a part of their enterprise an affirmation that the Rockefeller real estate people were still high on us and our services.
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Steve Wynn and the Disney folks never had to make good on their verbal pledges to back up our purchase agreement. We were able to fully pay for the purchase of the company from our income within three years of our emancipation.
The first time that my secretary said to me, “Mr. Henry Ford is on the line,” I think neither she nor I believed it. But he was, and Ford and I soon hit it off and developed a close relationship. The son of the company’s founder was a warm man who answered his own phone and made his own calls. This was in the mid-1970s, when we were still a part of the Tishman public company; Henry Ford, Jr. hired our construction division to help in the planning and supervise the building of the Renaissance Center in Detroit. It was to ultimately feature seven interconnected buildings along the Detroit waterfront, including a 73-story hotel that was to be the world’s tallest concrete structure and that today remains the Western Hemisphere’s tallest hotel. Famed architect John Portman designed the hotel and the office buildings encircling it. “RenCen” was intended as a “city within a city” in the manner of Rockefeller Center, and its goal was to revitalize downtown Detroit.
For this project Mr. Ford headed a consortium of automobile manufacturers that included Chrysler and General Motors as well as Ford. RenCen was a big project, if not as tall as the 100-story Hancock Center or as large as the World Trade Center towers, which we had already
There was one glitch, and it was of the sort that frequently arose when we dealt with the boss directly rather than through a client company’s in-house project manager. One man in the Ford construction division, a third-tier guy in the overall company hierarchy, became annoyed over time because I was speaking directly to Henry Ford rather than routing all of my queries and responses through him. We at Tishman tried all sorts of ways to compromise with this man and to ease his fears, but none of the strategies worked, and eventually I had to ask Mr. Ford to have him transferred to some other project, since he was getting in the way of completing this one. The man was transferred out, and RenCen was then completed to our client’s satisfaction. This glitch taught me a good deal about egos and the sort of turf wars within large corporations that often arise during the constructing of major projects for those corporations.