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Benjamin Holloway, Equitable’s shaper of NYC skyline, dies at 88

January 2, 2014 - 4:43pm

Benjamin Holloway, a descendant of Duke University’s founding family who, as an executive at Equitable Life Assurance Society, helped establish insurance companies as major investors in U.S. commercial real estate, has died. He was 88.

He died on Dec. 29 in Miami, according to Van Orsdel Family Funeral Chapels &Crematory. The cause was complications of emphysema, the Miami Herald reported.

As head of the New York-based realty operations for Equitable — now part of Paris-based Axa SA, France’s largest insurer — Holloway played a key financing role in the development of Midtown Manhattan and the landscape of cities around the country.

In the 1980s, when Equitable was the third-largest U.S. life insurer and a leading manager of pension funds, Holloway helped oversee its acquisitions of a 50 percent stake in King of Prussia Mall, near Philadelphia; a half interest in Miami-based Continental Cos.; Honolulu’s Ala Moana Center in a joint venture with Japanese retailer Daiei Inc.; and 19 shopping centers from General Growth Properties Inc., now based in Chicago, in what Equitable said was likely the biggest such deal in the U.S.

In New York, Holloway played a central role in the government-supported redevelopment of Times Square. He “managed to unite developers who had never worked together as a group before and, most likely, never will again,” the New York Times reported.

Also under Holloway, Equitable made its own mark on the Manhattan skyline by building its 54-story corporate headquarters at 787 Seventh Ave., between 51st and 52nd streets. The Axa Equitable Building, as it’s now known, features Roy Lichtenstein’s 68-foot-tall “Mural With Blue Brushstroke” in its soaring atrium, part of what the Times, in 1985, called “perhaps the largest partnership ever forged between art and real estate in Manhattan.”

Holloway served on a New York State task force that, in 1981, recommended the sale of the World Trade Center to a private owner. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey kept ownership of the complex until 2001, when it was sold to Larry Silverstein’s Silverstein Properties Inc., just two months before the twin towers were destroyed by terrorists.

Benjamin Duke Holloway was born on Feb. 15, 1925, in Durham, N.C.. He was an original member of the Duke Family Association of North Carolina, an organization of descendants of Duke University’s founding family. He served as a trustee of the school from 1985 to 1995.

After graduating from high school in Washington, D.C., in 1943, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

He graduated from Duke in 1950 with a degree in economics, spent a year working for the Federal Housing Administration in Washington, then in 1951 joined Equitable’s regional real estate office there. He moved to New York in 1979 and continued working at the insurer until his retirement in 1990.

Survivors include his wife of 31 years, the former Rita DiGiallonardo, and five children.

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