Connections count. It’s a way of opening doors and getting ahead. Knowing the right people can lead to business opportunities and deals.  Whether through the dint of your own hard work or because the family you were born in had connections the important thing is to be able to use it for some productive purposes.

Jerry Speyer is one person who was not born poor. He was born on June 23, 1940 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  His father came from an old Jewish family in Frankfurt, Germany who fled to the U.S. in 1939. Speyer graduated from Horace Mann School, a prestigious private high school. He attended Columbia University majoring in German literature and joined the Jewish fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau. Speyer finished college at Columbia University in 1962 and earned an MBA from Columbia Business School in 1964.

He then worked as Assistant to the Vice President of Madison Square Garden in 1964. In what can be viewed as a good use of connection he co-founded Tishman Speyer a real estate company in 1978. His co-founder Robert Tishman was also his then father-in-law.

The company they formed is a spin-off of Tishman Realty & Construction which has been in business for over a hundred years having been founded in 1898. Tishman Speyer Properties is a privately held limited partnership.  Based on company information Tishman Speyer has acquired, developed and operated over 353 projects totaling over 125 million square feet. The company has a global real estate portfolio around the US, Europe, Latin America, India and China valued at $61.3 billion. Among the properties in its portfolio is the Rockefeller Center.

Speyer is the Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer of the company and his eldest son Rob Speyer is President and Co-Chief Executive Officer.  Speyer’s company has not always had a great ride in fact it got caught up in the recent financial meltdown.  Three years ago the company agreed to surrender to creditors an 11,200-unit apartment complex in Manhattan which effectively wiped out $3.3 billion of investors’ money.

His company has since entered projects using less debt.  With good and strong connections some of the investors who lost money on his failed projects have been willing to invest money again in his new real estate undertakings.