Influential real estate magnate Walter Shorenstein, who advised presidents, dies

Friday, June 25, 2010

Real estate magnate Walter Shorenstein dies

SAN FRANCISCO — Real estate magnate Walter Shorenstein, an adviser to U.S. presidents whose company controlled about 30 million square feet of commercial real estate, has died. He was 95.

He died Thursday of natural causes at his San Francisco home, said Andrew Neilly, a spokesman for The Shorenstein Company.

The entrepreneur was a committed and influential Democrat and San Franciscan, who headed up the effort to keep the Giants baseball team from moving to Florida in 1993.

“Walter and his late wife Phyllis engaged in philanthropy and civic activism to build a better San Francisco and a better America,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “Their gifts to the Bay Area and the nation’s academic and cultural institutions have been legendary.”

His was a classic up-by-the-bootstraps story: he dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania, served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, then moved to San Francisco with little money and a pregnant wife.

In 1946, he joined a commercial real estate firm. By 1960, he had bought out the company and given it his name. The firm eventually became the largest owner of commercial office buildings in San Francisco.

A regular contributor to the Democratic Party, Shorenstein was tapped as an adviser in several capacities, first by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967, then during Jimmy Carter’s administration, and lastly by Bill Clinton, who asked him to serve on the Board of Directors of the Corporation for National Service, and on the U.S. Commerce Department Industry Policy Advisory Committee.

He also supported the recovery of New Orleans’ Broadmoor neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina.

He is survived by his daughter, Broadway producer Carole Shorenstein Hays, and his son Douglas Shorenstein, who now heads The Shorenstein Company, and grandchildren.

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