The rainmaker: Matthew Whitman Lazenby

08/15/2013 12:00 PM

08/13/2013 5:28 PM

Vitals: 35; born in Miami, the son of Bob Lazenby, an attorney, and Gwen, “the world’s No. 1 mom;” grandson of Stanley Whitman, who founded Bal Harbour Shops in 1965; grew up in Coral Gables, attended Palmer Trinity High School before graduating from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in English; married to Kristin Arbuckle Lazenby, “who I’ve known since I was five because our parents were friends and we grew up in the same circles;” father to 14-month-old William; proud owner of two boxers, Nina and Satchmo, and a Maltese named Riley, “who I married into.”

Current job: Operating Partner at Bal Harbour Shops, and President and Chief Executive Officer of Whitman Family Development. “These days I’m really focused on our newest project, the development of Brickell CityCentre. It’s the first time in 50 years our family business has stepped out of the Village of Bal Harbour to contemplate doing something else."

First paying job: “As a junior in high school, I worked maintenance at Bal Harbour Shops earning minimum wage. I painted stairwells and pressure cleaned the roof of the parking garage in the fabulous South Florida summer. One day in July, I got baked up there. I must have been somewhere between orange and purple by the end of the day, and I went to see my grandfather when I was done. He asked, what did you learn? I said, that it’s hot! His response was: ‘Well, if you can’t learn to work with this—and he pointed to his head—then you’ll have to figure out how to work with these—and he showed me his hands.’ It was a lesson that stuck with me.”

Something most people don’t know about you? "That right after college, I taught English literature to fifth- and sixth-graders. It was a fascinating experience and I actually miss it sometimes.”

Best advice ever received: “It’s not something someone told me, rather it’s a quote from John Milton: ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’ To me it means that, sometimes, not doing a thing is more important than doing something, that it’s better to listen than to talk. In business, a lot of people are fearful of inactivity and they want to jump to do something because they don’t want to not do anything. That can be dangerous. Sometimes it’s best to hold steady.”

Living person you most admire: It’s a three-way tie between my mom, my dad and my grandfather. The man I am today I attribute to my parents equally. And then there’s my grandfather. When I was a kid, he went to every stupid play I was in as a fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grader. In high school, he came to every football game I ever played in. He was an amateur photographer and he’d bring his cameras and lenses to everything. He is a great business man but also a true family guy, an unbelievable grandfather.”

Your greatest extravagance? “My boat. It’s a 35-foot outboard I’ve had since 2008. Because of all that’s going on with our company, my time has been seriously monopolized with work. But the boat is the place where I can get away from work and create family time, which is so important and yet so easy to neglect. It’s where we come together.”

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