Lou Gehrig’s disease, a fatal condition. He was bed-ridden in his apartment, and I went to see him there. He had never been noticeably enthusiastic or sympathetic toward the construction side of our company, had always been somewhat cool to me and oblivious of what I was doing. He was also a man who seldom gave out spontaneous compliments, especially in my direction. But during this deathbed session, he said he was very proud of me and of our construction division for landing the World Trade Center project. That meant a lot to me. Shortly after my visit, in 1967, Norman passed on, at age 65. His oldest surviving brother, David, thirteen years older, had retired and lived on. The leadership of Tishman Realty & Construction Company was now completely in the hands of the third generation, Bob, Alan, and myself.
During my early years with Tishman Realty, every weekday morning the Tishman clan would gather for breakfast before beginning work in the office. The locale of the breakfasts was the Lombardy Hotel, which was next to our then headquarters at 445 Park Avenue. I soon learned that the breakfasts were where the real issues of the company were supposed to be discussed. Because that was so, the attendees often included Uncle Alex and his two sons, who were not in the top echelon but wanted to feel as though they were or soon would be. I thought that was amusing, and was also a bit annoyed that these second-stringers would make it their business to be there, but I also recognized why they felt they needed to attend. I showed up at the daily family breakfasts because I didn’t have a sponsoring father in the hierarchy, and if I had not been there, I certainly have been shut out learning important information about where the company was heading, and, more important, would not have been able to form an entirely separate operation under the banner of “The Tishman Construction Company.”
When we moved into our 666 Fifth Avenue headquarters in 1957, the breakfasts were shifted to the Berkshire Hotel at 52nd and Madison.
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Some time thereafter, I tired of the family breakfasts and stopped going to them, instead establishing another tradition of breakfasts with my senior construction colleagues at Stouffer’s restaurant, on the first floor of the 666 building.
By the late 1960s, the family breakfasts were no longer being held, partially because all of my uncles were gone from the company, and the tradition went with them, but partly because my oldest cousin, Bob, was in charge, and he wasn’t interested in the daily family confabs. Back then, we didn’t call the top position in the company the CEO, but that’s what Bob was. There were fewer Tishmans overall, since my cousins Bill and Peter had departed the company and my cousin Ed was solely devoted to property leasing and wasn’t in the upper management.
Bob never questioned my judgment or my views, as my uncles had; he let me “do my thing,” for instance, with the World Trade Center project. After all, Bob did not have sons who might compete with me, and he seemed to welcome my input in all aspects of the business, not just in those related to our construction activities. The corporation had evolved into three major divisions. Bob, assisted by his son-in-law Jerry Speyer, ran the real estate part of the enterprise, acquiring the land and making the financial deals connected with our portfolio of office buildings. Bob’s brother Alan ran the management division, managing and leasing the office buildings that the family owned and operated. By this time, I was in sole charge of the construction division; we were then building for our own portfolio and, on a fee basis, for other developers and public entities, many ofwhose projects were substantial ones, such as the Hancock and World Trade Center towers.