The Great Developer

Trammell Crow made millions based on what he called hunches—warehouses, atrium marts, huge hotels—and amazingly, most of his deals he did on a handshake.

Trammell Crow was the first titan I had ever met. It was 1980, and I was just out of college, working as a cub reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Hoping to get me to write a story, a public relations man had asked me to meet him at some downtown restaurant where all the big businessmen of the city gathered. Suddenly, Trammell Crow walked past our table. The PR guy, obviously wanting me to know how connected he was, said, “Mr. Crow,” and the great developer turned around, said hello to him, and then looked at me. He saw my little reporter’s notebook in my hand. After we were introduced, he gave me a kindly smile. “So you’ve taken on the hardest job in the world,” he said. “You should have done something easy, like I did, and built buildings. You’d be making a lot more money.”

I always had assumed titans—especially Texas titans—were supposed to be mean sons of bitches. I knew for a fact—at least I thought I did—that they hated reporters. But Crow was different. Every reporter who got the chance to go into his office would always come out marveling at the way those great bushy eyebrows rose up to the heights of his forehead. And they’d equally marvel at how he was so common—and I use that word only in the best way. You’d sit there and ask him some question that you had spent thirty minutes the night before formulating—a question, say, about business models and real estate economics that made you look vastly intelligent—and he’d raise his eyebrows and look out the window for a few seconds and say, “I don’t know about that. I sort of do things on a hunch. You want a glass of water or something there, young man?”

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