A blown down movie screen led to the phenomenal success of CBL and Associates, Michael Lebovitz told the Chattanooga Rotary Club on Thursday.
Mr. Lebovitz told of his grandfather, Mose Lebovitz, being in the movie business with his cousin, Jay Solomon.
He said when a storm knocked over the screen for their Skyway Drive In on Brainerd Road, they decided to put in a shopping center at the site.
He said Mose Lebovitz sent a postcard to his son, Charles Lebovitz, telling him to bone up on the shopping center business.
The family opened Eastgate Mall on Sept. 20, 1962.
Mr. Lebovitz said the family operation merged with the Arlen firm in 1971, then became CBL and Associates in 1978. Two of the original five associates, John Foy and Ben Landress, were at the Rotary luncheon as was Charles Lebovitz.
He said the firm at that time owned no shopping centers, but he said they followed the advice of Mose Lebovitz, who said, "Think big and stay small."
They began developing shopping centers in the South, Southwest and West.
CBL began working on the Hamilton Place Mall project in 1982 and it opened in 1987. Mr. Lebovitz said its success "shows what a regional mall can contribute to the economy of a community."
He told of CBL going public and of becoming the sixth largest owner of shopping centers in the country.
He said dividends have grown from $1.50 to $2.90 this year.
Mr. Lebovitz said CBL is opening 10 new shopping centers this year. Next year it will open its first shopping center in California.
He said mall developers "panicked" when companies began selling on the Internet, but he said that has had an effect but has not been nearly as damaging as was feared.
He said security is a much greater concern at malls after the 9-1-1 attack.
Mr. Lebovitz said CBL is also involved in renovating and expanding a number of existing malls, saying it is important to "keep them clean and fresh."