TRAMMELL CROW, MASTER BUILDER: The Story of America's Largest Real Estate by Robert Sobel

TRAMMELL CROW, MASTER BUILDER: The Story of America's Largest Real Estate

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The dull-as-ditch-water biography of a world-class builder whose accomplishments and holdings dwarf those of celebrity developers like Donald Trump. While Sobel (IBM vs. Japan, Car Wars, The Worldly Economists, et al.) provides a wealth of detail about Trammell Crow and his Works, he's unable to bring the man to life. Nor does the author convey in any coherent way what's made Trammell run. Sobel's failures are unfortunate because, at 75, Crow (who's still involved in the free-form enterprises he created) can look back on an eventful and altogether remarkable career. Crow grew up poor in Dallas, still his home, but managed to earn a living as a CPA during the Depression. Following service as a naval officer during WW II, he returned to Texas and chanced into the industrial warehouse business. Starting as a lessor in 1948, he soon became a builder and developer. Within a matter of years, Crow diversified into other types of projects--apartment houses, hotels, merchandise in arts, offices, shopping malls--and took his show on the road to new cities in overseas markets as well as the US. Among other achievements, he helped popularize commercial atriums, devised novel incentives (notably, partnership interests) for associates, and displayed an uncanny knack for site selection. Paradoxically perhaps, there's never been much structure to Crow's organizations, and he was pushed to the wall during the mid-1970's when rising interest rates threatened to decimate his highly leveraged real-estate empire. Crow survived the credit crunch largely unchastened, but his presumptive successors are bringing an overdue measure of order to what was long a one-man show. Sobel's tedious narrative captures precious little of the drama of Crow's rise and virtually none of his wayward spirit. Save for few brief asides, moreover, the author eschews background material that might have put his subject's risks and rewards into clearer perspective. A badly botched opportunity.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Wiley