The inside story of Columbus’ most extraordinary family and the challenges facing its next generation.
Dave Ghose – Read on ColumbusMonthly.com
Saul, Jerome and Jay Schottenstein in their store in 1987 Columbus Dispatch File
The photo helped break the ice.
Cathy Schottenstein noticed it right away when she entered the beachfront condo in Surfside, Florida. On a wall near her second cousin David Schottenstein’s kitchen, she saw a framed image of her grandfather Alvin and his three brothers: Leon, Saul and Jerome. Cathy had never seen this particular photo—the four Columbus retail pioneers, looking young, handsome and sharply dressed—and it helped her connect with David, Leon’s grandson, whom she’d never met before, even though both grew up in Central Ohio. It reminded her of their shared lineage. “There was something nice about that,” she says.
The photo also was a memento of a more united time. Starting in the early 1980s, relatives began to splinter in her branch, fighting over the Columbus-based business empire that the foursome had built from a single discount department store that their father, Ephraim Schottenstein, founded on Columbus’ South Side. Now, a new internecine dispute had emerged: Alvin’s widow, Beverley, Cathy’s grandmother, was accusing two of her grandsons, Evan and Avi Schottenstein, of mishandling her roughly $80 million fortune in their roles as her financial advisers.
The Schottenstein Family Tree: How the various branches of Columbus’ sprawling last dynasty connect to each other
On this February 2019 morning, David, a retail entrepreneur and investor, explained to Cathy why he’d asked to meet with her. As they talked over coffee and pastries, David—pronounced “da-veed,” the Hebrew elocution—didn’t make any specific demands of Cathy, who was supporting her grandmother’s efforts to pursue a complaint against her cousins with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, the nonprofit that disciplines registered broker-dealers in the U.S. Mostly, he offered to help the two sides start communicating again. He wanted to avoid a protracted public battle that might embarrass the family, the kind of discord that had become too common in recent decades. “I think he saw himself as a peacemaker,” Cathy says.
Indeed, David did seem to occupy a unique space in the family. As a child, he told Cathy, he made friends with estranged cousins, and he continued to build relationships with them and other relatives as an adult, bridging the divisions within the family. He even became close with Jay Schottenstein, the head of the family’s vast network of retail and real estate interests (and the son of Jerome, who waged a bitter legal battle against David’s father and uncle, Tom and Bill). Read more