Maria Saporta, Saporta Report
John Calvin “Jack” Portman III, an Atlanta architect who led Portman Architects’ entry into Asia in the 1980s, died of natural causes on Aug. 28 at his home.
His death is less than three years since the death of his father – John C. Portman Jr., someone who transformed the Atlanta skyline with the development of Peachtree Center, Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency Hotel, the Westin Peachtree Plaza and more than a dozen blocks downtown.
Jack Portman was chairman and CEO of Portman Architects until his death.
“I’m devastated. Jack was like a brother to me,” said A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress who worked with the Portman organization beginning in 1981 as part of the architectural firm’s international expansion. “It was too soon.”
Robinson called Jack Portman “an Atlanta explorer” who discovered business opportunities in Shanghai, China; Singapore; Malaysia; Thailand and other Asian destinations.
“Jack was a character. You couldn’t help but like him,” Robinson said. “He was a guy with an insatiable appetite for culture, travel and people. He couldn’t sit still. He really wanted to conquer the world.”
For most of his business career with Portman Architects (formerly John Portman & Associates), Jack Portman was in the shadow of his father – never getting the full recognition for his role in making the company international.
“The Portman organization is more known in China and India than it is in America, and that’s due to Jack,” Robinson said. Their favorite project was Shanghai Centre, which was “pioneering and imaginative” – by being one of the first Western developers to build a major project in China
John Portman IV, who specializes in finance and serves as president of Portman Holdings, said 30 banks lent money for Shanghai Centre to spread the risk of doing business in China during the 1980s.
John IV called his father a kind, charismatic and thoughtful man who was not afraid to take risks.
“He had the courage to move three kids under the age of four to Hong Kong in 1980 to open up a Portman office there,” John IV said. “He had the wanderlust.”
With his focus on international development, Jack Portman was able to grow beyond his father’s expansive orbit in the United States.
Jack Portman was able to figure out “how do I build on what my father’s done and put my own fingerprints on it,” John IV said.
Robinson spoke of Jack Portman’s warmth and sense of humor.
“He lit up a room,” John IV said. “But he didn’t suck all the air out of the room.”