New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman didn't have a column in yesterday's paper. Was it because the company that his wife's fortune is invested in went bankrupt last week, and he's too sad to type?
General Growth Properties filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, which is notable because it's one of the nation's largest mall operators, with 200 malls in 44 states—the Times called the company's failure "one of the biggest commercial real estate collapses in United States history."
It's also notable because Friedman's wife, Ann Bucksbaum Friedman, is an heir to the family that founded GGP, and her family still owns about a quarter of the company. Two years ago, a quarter of GGP was worth more than $4 billion. Today it's worth less than an olive tree. Friedman does OK—incomprehensibly so—with his books and speaking gigs, so he's got a little breathing room. Still, it's got to hurt when your spouse's family loses $4 billion.
Here's what Friedman had to say about his family's business back in 2000:
My relatives are in the mall business, where everyone is worried about all the stories of the high-tech age, just around the corner, when you will be able to do all your shopping online from your Palm Pilot, and your refrigerator will automatically order more milk via the Web when its high-tech sensors indicate you're low. I jokingly suggested to the shopping center folks that they run an ad that would say: "Imagine a world in which you will be able to go to just one place, walk from shop to shop, and see, touch, feel or try on anything you like, and then buy it right there and take it home with you — without worrying about your credit card number being stolen, or how U.P.S. will deliver it, or how you will ship it back if it doesn't fit. Imagine such a world! It's also just around the corner — right now. It's called a mall."
Man that guy's a genius. GGP should have hired him as a marketing consultant. We were kind of excited to see what Friedman might have to say about his relatives' business latest challenge, but the Times' said he was "off" yesterday.
The Times catalogued GGP's woes last week, but they didn't mention Friedman's connection.