My former business partner and friend since 1985, Alfred S. Austin passed from this life last night in his sleep at the age of 85.
Al and I were partners for 11 years. I met him through Republican party politics in the mid 1980’s when I was a sales professional at Lee Arnold & Assoc. and we become close friends. In 1992 I left Arnold and together we formed The Austin Group – a 3rd party, contingent fee CRE brokerage company that also handled office, Industrial and Hotel management.
Al was a gentleman in every sense of the word. In 11 years he and I never had a significant argument and the times we disagreed on this or that business option were rare and quickly resolved for the betterment of the partnership and the company.
His word was his bond. There were several very large office properties that Al owned for decades with other partners under just a handshake agreement; nothing written whatsoever.
He was a partner with Hugh Culverhouse in the early days and had the sky box just below Hugh’s at the old “Sombrero” when the Bucs began to play there. He was instrumental in keeping MacDill AFB open through BRAC I, II and III and served as chairman of the UT capital campaign which raised tens of millions for the school as well as chairman of the Tampa Airport Authority Board.
Al has been on record as saying that he’s raise hundreds of millions of dollars for local charities and I once heard Former Governor Bob Martinez say that between Republican politics, UT, Tampa Prep (which Al founded), the Cancer Society and other charities, Al was personally responsible for having raised over $1 billion.
He is the last of a breed in our area – in the world, really. He will be greatly missed in the Tampa Bay area and in Florida.
As an aside though – and only because thinking about Al like this has caused it to come to mind – I’d tell each of you that the partners I have now in Allen Crumbley and Dewey Mitchell are very much like Al in many ways and I’m grateful for them.