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Matthew Bucksbaum

Posted November 26, 2013 in Des Moines West, Obituaries

February 20, 1926 – November 24, 2013

Matthew Bucksbaum

Matthew Bucksbaum

Matthew Bucksbaum, co-founder of General Growth Properties, died November 24, 2013, of respiratory failure. Before his retirement as CEO in 1999, and as Chairman in 2006, the publicly held company was one of the largest owners and developers of shopping centers in the world, numbering over 200 malls and 200 million square feet of space.

The company was the outgrowth of a family-owned grocery business in Marshalltown, Iowa, where Mr. Bucksbaum grew up and attended school. He was the first in his family to graduate from college with a four-year degree from the University of Iowa. He majored in economics, graduated cum laude, and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. He was a member of the Phi Epsilon Pi social fraternity. The University honored him as one of its outstanding alumni.

The real estate development company was founded in 1954 under the leadership of Matthew Bucksbaum and his brothers Maurice and Martin.The Bucksbaum brothers were among a handful of families who are recognized today as the pioneers of the shopping center industry. Matthew became a member of the board of the International Council of Shopping Centers in 1986, and was named the organization’s worldwide chairman in 1992. Generally soft-spoken and thoughtful, he lived by the principle “My good name is the most precious thing I have” and was known for his integrity.

From 1959 to 2000, he lived with his family in Des Moines, Iowa.The family also lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where they built the state’s first shopping center, and their second center, in Bettendorf, Iowa, was the first to feature a department store anchor at a time of rapid expansion in the shopping mall industry. After building malls in other Iowa communities in which Younkers, an Iowa department store chain, was the anchor tenant, the board chairman of Younkers asked the Bucksbaums to move to Des Moines in 1964 to assume the management of a publicly held real estate firm. The public listing of its stock broadened the company’s financial base and permitted it rapid expansion, taking the name General Growth Properties in 1970.

The Bucksbaums became part-time residents of Aspen, Colorado, in the early 1970s, drawn there by the winter and the summer beauty, as well as the Aspen Music Festival. After years of regularly enjoying summer concerts there, Mr. Bucksbaum was invited to become a trustee of the Festival and later served two terms as the chairman of its board. He oversaw the building of a new concert tent during his chairmanship. It provided a concert hall-like summer venue for Festival events. After moving to Chicago, he was asked to join the board of the Chicago Symphony Association that was in the midst of renovating Symphony Hall. He became deeply interested in the medical school of the University of Chicago and with his wife co-founded the Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence. Additional interests have included providing scholarship opportunities for young people in the varied fields of music and higher education, and initiatives to increase diversity within the shopping center-related industry.

The funeral will be held on Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Des Moines at 1:30 p.m. Burial will follow at Jewish Glendale Cemetery, followed by a reception at the Temple. A memorial service will be held in the next few months in Chicago.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Carolyn Swartz Bucksbaum; children, John Bucksbaum (Jacolyn) and Ann B. Friedman (Thomas L.) as well as grandchildren, Orly D. Friedman and Natalie F. Winston (Daniel) and Max and Eli Bucksbaum; his brother, Maurice Bucksbaum (Dorothy). Preceding him in death was his brother, Martin.The family is deeply indebted to Robert Schrieffer, John Rhea Zurbano, Anita Ocampo, Emilita Cielos, Griselda Henderson, and Celia Manalus for their years of loving care, and to the family’s devoted doctor, Mark Siegler.

The family is also indebted to Pat Gessmann who moved to Chicago from Des Moines to continue to her decades long, invaluable service to Mr. Bucksbaum.

Memorials in his memory may be made to: The Aspen Music Festival and School, 225 Music School Road, Aspen, CO 81611 or The Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence at the University of Chicago, Rm. W-737, MC6098 5841 S. Maryland Avenue Chicago, IL 60637, or a charity of choice.


Information provided by:
Iles Funeral Homes
Dunn’s Chapel
2121 Grand Ave
Des Moines, IA 50312

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