The Closing: Tibor Hollo

Jun.June 04, 2008 03:08 PM

Developer Tibor Hollo is chairman and president of Florida East Coast Realty. Over 30 years ago, he forged a path for the future by constructing the first high-rise building on Brickell. His latest development, One Bayfront Plaza, a $1.8 billion development on Biscayne Boulevard, is poised to be the tallest building in Miami.

What is your full name?

Tibor Hollo.

What is your birth date?

July 13, 1927.

Where did you grow up?

Partly in Hungary and partly in France.

How did the European upbringing influence you?

Unfortunately, during my formative years, I spent three years in a couple of concentration camps as a guest of Mr. Hitler. That part of my life is very sad, but it gave me more faith in the Almighty.

What was the first job you ever had?

Quantity surveyor, which is a nice way to say estimator.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an architect.

What’s something that people don’t know about you?

I am quite spiritual when it comes to private life and when it comes to my relationship with my Maker.

What do you enjoy most in life?

I enjoy very much my family.

What’s your favorite place in the world?

You are going to hate me when I tell you this. Miami. I love this city. I fell in love with it something like 50 years ago and I still love it. I still love it. I love the ethnic expansion of the city. Miami is a truly global city in a very fine urban atmosphere. It is a tourist’s paradise. I keep telling my wife, let’s go down this weekend to Miami Beach for vacation.

You are involved in many philanthropic efforts. Which one means the most to you?

I am proud that I early on made a decision that I would give back to the community. I like education. I like arts. Education is our future and arts should be everybody’s present because that’s a joy that you can get out of life. I personally like operas. That’s my favorite form of art.

What time do you get up in the morning?

I get up at 5:30 every morning.

Are you also early to bed?

I usually go to bed at 11:30, which may seem early to some.

Why do you get up so early?

I enjoy doing things like working out and having some private time and getting ready by 7:00 or 7:30 to conquer the world.

How much money do you have in your wallet right now?

I can tell you exactly: $122.

Do you feel like a rich man?

I am because of my kids. When you die, they don’t put any pockets in your clothes. I’ll leave a lot behind — a lot to charity, a lot to family. But I think the greatest thing you can leave behind is your good name.

I understand your sons are doing much of the work at the company these days.

Oh, yes. I am trying to load on them as much as I can. Listen, I’ve been doing this for 58 years. I think I am entitled to a little easier going.

What are your favorite restaurants?

I love Joe’s Stone Crabs. I also like Capital Grille.

Is there a particular food you could eat every day of your life and never get tired of it?

Yes, salads. I love them. I love them. I probably was a rabbit in a previous life.

How would others describe you?

A tough businessman, but straight. Some people think I am too much of a visionary and too much of a dreamer, and so be it. Maybe I am.

What books are you reading now?

I am just finishing Dr. Mehmet Oz’s book on the diet.

What are your hobbies?

I love swimming. I enjoy watching football and I like to spend time with my wife.

What one word would you use to describe yourself?

Optimistic. I am ever so optimistic about the humans around me and the humans that will come after me.

What makes you so optimistic?

I believe that we can’t get much worse and we have to get better. We have reached a pretty low plateau.

What’s the greatest lesson you have learned in life?

To be humble.

What are you most proud of?

My family. They are wonderful people.

What do you want your children to learn from you?

To treat others as they want to be treated and do not be influenced too much with the almighty dollar. Love things in life besides dollars.

If you could do anything over again, what would it be?

I’d be born in America.

You’ve received a lot of accolades over the years. Which one means the most to you?

In 1981 and again in 2005, the United States Congress named me as an outstanding Floridian. That I cherish.

What do you see for the future of Miami?

Miami is going to flourish as a global city. It has all the markings of a terrific thriving population. It has the human resources. It is a beautiful place to live in, as well as a tourist’s paradise. The business climate is fabulous. The leadership of the city is very aggressively looking at a good economic future.

How do you want to be remembered?

If anybody remembers me, I want them to remember me as, “Jeez, he kept a good name.”

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