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Scott A. Wolstein, ’77

Building Support

Scott Wolstein’s first legal action was a breach-of-contract suit against U-M, filed in his third year of law school. At issue? His and his roommate’s tickets to the Michigan-Ohio State game, for which the University had accepted payment but then refunded it, claiming the game was oversold.

For an Ohio native who’s a Michigan booster on every fall Saturday but one, those were fighting words.

Wolstein and his roommate didn’t succeed in getting a temporary restraining order to stop the game, but they got their tickets and a great story to tell. His affection for Michigan has grown over the years, especially since his son Harrison received his BBA from the Ross School of Business last year. Recently, Wolstein made a gift of $250,000 to the Law School’s building project.

“I have always admired the Law School, and it played an integral role in my career,” says Wolstein. “We all have an obligation to support the institutions that help us succeed.” 

Wolstein began his career as an associate with the Cleveland law firm of Thompson Hine LLP. He left in 1981 to run his own company, Diversified Equities, which structured tax-advantaged investments in limited real-estate partnerships.  In the mid-1980s, Wolstein moved into venture capital and real estate work, partnering on some projects with his father, the late Cleveland developer and philanthropist Bart Wolstein.

The Wolsteins merged their companies in 1993 and took the new entity public as Developers Diversified, a real estate trust that became one of the world’s largest retail real estate concerns.  As CEO from 1993–2010, Scott Wolstein led the
business’s growth from total assets of $400 million to more than $16 billion.

From 1979–1989, father and son owned another, smaller family business: the Cleveland Force indoor soccer team, building it into that rare thing in the United States, a highly successful soccer franchise.

“When we took over the team, it was drawing very few fans,” Wolstein recalls. “The joke around the office was that if someone called to ask what time the game was, we’d ask, ‘What time can you get here?’”

Since last June, Wolstein has been CEO of Starwood Retail Partners, a real estate platform in the regional mall business launched last year by Starwood Capital Group. He lives in Hunting Valley, Ohio, outside Cleveland, and commutes west to Chicago (where his operating team is) and east to Greenwich, Connecticut (where his
acquisitions team is). He’s relishing the new job.

“Building a company is what I really enjoy— putting a team together, working on strategy, and evaluating investment opportunities,” he says of his return to the world of multimillion-dollar real estate ventures.

Spoken like a guy who once lived in a very prime piece of Ann Arbor real estate: the top floor of the Lawyers Club tower.

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