Inside look at an American legacy and real estate dynasty
By Sonia Tita Puopolo I Photography by Reynaldo Alés
It all adds up to the product of determination and hard work. The result is the emergence of an American industry icon. Turnberry today is epitomized by elegance, luxury, and passion. State of the art retail centers, industry defining residential offices, and haute hotels all comprise Turnberry Associates, one of North America’s leading real estate development and property management companies, founded by Don Soffer and led by Jeffrey Soffer. The more one learns about Turnberry and the two Soffers who guide its acquisitions and developments, the more one appreciates the art and acumen so often articulated in America’s best business schools and board rooms. It was indeed a privilege to meet with Jeffrey and Don Soffer in the impressive environs of Turnberry’s vast real estate and development reach. Whether it be from Jeff’s gorgeous and stately home in Miami that transports any visitor immediately to an architectural link in my native New England, to Don proudly stepping off a tour of the awe inspiring views and vistas on his gorgeous golf course in Aventura, to dialectical debates and discussions within the privacy of their jet, the end result was worthy of an honorary degree in business, negotiation and leadership – taught by two of our country’s most inspiring and promising entrepreneurs.
This is the very essence of what good business is all about, and it’s a legacy that promises to be continued in generations to come, spilling over for more global holdings and impact. Such is the fortitude and the forecast for Don’s exceptionally talented and lucidly articulate visionary son, Jeff, now at the helm of his family’s forty year business. The family’s long standing reputation for innovative teamwork and leadership that sets the industry standard in real estate development is a theme and trait that puts Turnberry in a specific class of its own. Being with the Soffers is like watching synchronized teamwork in action, teamwork that benefits from insightful coaching and the ability to read the opportunities and options like few in the game.
It comes as no surprise that this forty-year family dynasty is rooted in the good habits, discipline, and grooming one finds on the sports playing field. Four score years ago, football star Don Soffer moved from the playing field to the board room and joined his family business, opting to learn from his lifelong mentor – his dad. He explains, “I opened my first retail shopping mall with my father when I was twenty-four years old and then came down here [to South Florida] and bought all the land you see now. It was swamp land, all marshes, and I had a vision.” Don certainly had a vision and an incredible one; as we zoomed around the golf course at the Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort & Club in his little golf car, he pointed out that the land we were on was once all marshland. Don purchased almost 1,000 acres of the marshland in northern Dade County in 1967, filled the area, and created what is today called Aventura, a planned community. His vision has certainly been realized; Aventura is now a haven of activity, with golf courses, lakes, bike and exercise paths, exclusive condominiums, hotels, shopping centers, office buildings, and more.
Don proudly says, “Now, my handsome and talented son, Jeffrey, runs the business; he is in the office now. I like the balance of work and love to golf and play tennis. I workout every day and need to stay active always.” Papa Soffer has passed the baton to his superlative son, Jeffrey. Turnberry Associates has a $5 billion portfolio currently and continues to grow under the control of the whiz kid. Albeit, Jeffrey is no longer a kid, he started to work with his father twenty years ago in 1987.