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.

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  • Wes

    I don't know if accurate to use "knowing how deals here really get done" to describe Ron Rubin. The fact that the graphic for this article cites DisneyQuest as an accomplishment speaks volumes of what this man has done to Philadelphia, which is to have left nothing but scars of surface parking lots littering once thriving, retail and commercial thoroughfares. He should stick to refurbishing hotels and designing suburban strip malls and leave the major urban core development to those who get cities.