Ron Rubin Was Here

He’s left a bigger mark on Philly than anyone this side of Willard Rouse, and now, at 77, he wants to put a casino in Strawbridge’s. The key to being Ron Rubin? Patience, and knowing how deals here really get done

But yes, of course, don’t be fooled: Quietly, Rubin picks up idiosyncrasies of partners, vulnerabilities on the other side of the negotiating table. He understands what he can get in a deal and gets it. And he doesn’t squeeze every last dollar; everyone should get up from a negotiation satisfied. Which has given Rubin a stellar reputation as a guy you want to keep on working with.

Ron Rubin’s interest in the Foxwoods casino is a natural extension of his deal-making arc. He’s very careful to make sure it’s understood that all the income he generates from his slots parlor goes to charity: “I’m looking you in the eyes” — the Rubin stare again — “I’m telling you that our interest in this deal is purely that.” Rubin says he wants to teach his two grown children about the importance of giving; Rotwitt surmises that Rubin has a mini Pew Charitable Trusts legacy in mind. Pushing a little higher.

But here’s the rub: Ron Rubin doesn’t have a vision — he builds, and then builds bigger. In a complex city, simply getting a project off the ground is its own challenge and reward. The arc ascends, as it must. Rubin doesn’t so much subvert William Penn’s simple plan, or Ed Bacon’s post-war redo, or a thousand ideas on reshaping the city, as make them irrelevant.

It looks likely that Philadelphia will have two slots parlors — the state has decreed them legal, and the local roadblock is down to continual wailing from those who have a knee-jerk antipathy to gambling (plus some grumbling from Gramercy Capital, the company that owns seven upper floors of Strawbridge’s). But why is it that Ron Rubin, a businessman, a builder, an agnostic when it comes to whether casinos are actually a good thing for his city, gets to decide where his legacy lands? Because that’s how the City of Philadelphia is being built.