Posted: January 01, 2011
Colorado Business Hall of Fame: Myron “Micky” Miller
Real estate titan inspired by pioneer spiritDavid Lewis
Myron "Micky" Miller is a third-generation Coloradan, and for that and other reasons he's still delighted, grateful and a little awed to be here.
The same could be said for Miller's reaction to his 2011 induction into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame. A real estate titan by any definition, Miller more than deserves the honor, but he seems to see it from a different perspective.
Miller at age 79 still loves hiking and, "When I get in these mountains I say, ‘How the heck did the pioneers cross with covered wagons? What they must have endured - and not knowing where they were going?' It's just amazing how strong these people were, and they settled America."
That pioneering attitude carried over into latter-day Colorado business practices, which is why Miller recalls his first big case, which ended in the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the mid-1950s, when Miller was 25 years old and fresh out of the University of Denver College of Law, a client's great-uncle died and left behind a controversial trust. Were his client and her siblings entitled to one-sixteenth or one-ninety-sixth of the $25 million estate?
Miller recalls vividly his reception by the siblings' counsel at the Manhattan law firm of Dewey Ballantine (today's Dewey & LeBoeuf).
"They looked at me as though I had just gotten out of school, which I had, but we agreed on the strategy," and Miller's client ultimately won.
"The approach here in Denver was so much different: Most of your clients were not 9-to-5 clients; most were people you grew up with, or you knew their parents.... It was wonderful, and totally different than it was back East."
In 1969, Miller turned his attention to real estate development. The rest is Hall-of-Fame caliber history.
Miller has been involved in the development, acquisition and management of 50 million square feet of just about every type of commercial real estate in more than 40 cities in six countries. He has been involved with and served on many boards including the University of Denver, Rose Community Foundation, Shalom Park and the Denver Nuggets.
Today he co-chairs his 30-employee firm, Miller Global Properties, whose president and CEO is son Jim Miller.
A faded photo in his office stands out even when crowded by portraits of Miller with presidents Clinton and Obama. It pictures Miller with tycoon Marvin Davis and among others President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Davis and Miller built the 35-story Fox Plaza building in Los Angeles - famed as Nakatomi Plaza in "Die Hard" - and twice bought and sold it. Miller went on to an arrangement with billionaire Philip Anschutz before founding Miller Global.
Turning to the present, we see Miller standing before a panoramic photograph of the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, a 1.25 million-square-foot complex that opened last January.
Miller Global is pushing ahead a bunch of big projects, mainly hotels.
"I like the action," Miller admits.
This does not mean Miller is a Pollyanna, nor does it make him a doomsayer, even on the office market.
"We've been in many economic cycles, and this is the most difficult by far," he says. "It all depends on the city; it all depends on what drives the city. There are some cities we wouldn't touch today and other cities we think have a lot of viability, particularly Denver."
David Lewis is a freelance writer based in Denver.