Leadership Spotlight – Russell Galbut


Leadership Spotlight - Russell Galbut


Russell Galbut is the grandson of Abraham (Al) and Bessie Galbut who moved to Miami Beach permanently in 1931 after visiting during the winters of 1929 and 1930. Al and Bessie set up shop at 5th and Washington in a store called Al’s and Al became known as the Mayor of South Beach in those early days. Al Galbut was one of the original builders of Beth Jacob Synagogue which is now the Jewish Museum while Bessie his wife devoted her time to building the non-existent Jewish community, including the Mikvah (spiritual bath), the Hebrew Academy (Jewish Day School) and the Hebrew Home (Jewish Nursing Home). Russell’s father Hyman graduated from Beach High in 1937 attended Tulane University and returned to the Beach with his wife (also named Bessie) who he met in New Orleans while attending School. Many people thought that “Hymie” fell in love with her because of her name. After World War II coming home from the Pacific Hymie and Bessie Galbut raised their four sons on Miami Beach who until today all reside here. They have over 26 grandchildren and 49 great grandchildren all living and or working in our community.

Russell Galbut is the managing Principle of Crescent Heights, one of Americas largest and most well-respected residential real estate developers. Having been active in the urban mixed use real estate sector for over 35 years, Mr. Galbut and the Crescent Heights team are considered the “best in class” developer with a successful track record in new construction and renovations. The company has been active in over 15 major metropolitan markets from coast to coast and has developed over 35,000 residential units and has pioneered the condo hotel concept including the largest condo hotel in the world, the Ala Moana in Hawaii. Mr. Galbut got his start in the hotel industry in 1968 when he became the youngest night auditor at the Fontainebleau Hotel. In those days “work cards” were still required to work in Miami Beach hotels at menial tasks i.e. thus controlling who was allowed and who was not.

Graduating from Miami Beach’s Hebrew Academy High School, Russell went on to attend the prestigious Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduating from there in 1974. Upon graduation he became a consultant for Laventhal and Horwath specializing in real estate development and investment. After earning his CPA degree while at Laventhal, Mr. Galbut left in 1976 to begin his first of many condominium projects in Miami Beach. While building and developing all over the beach, Russell attended the University of Miami School of Law and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1980. Then in 1989 he met his partners and co-founded what is now called Crescent Heights. Through today Mr. Galbut and Crescent Heights have completed such conversion projects in Miami Beach, as the Decoplage, Shelborne, Carriage Club, Carriage Club North, Castel Beach Club, Carriage House, Casablanca to name just a few. Together these conversions raised the assessed values of these buildings over 1 billion dollars in value which is the largest tax base increase brought about by any company in the history of the Island.

Today the Galbut Family still has financial interests in many Miami Beach properties including hotels like the Shelborne, the Bancroft, the Sanctuary, the Bentley and more recently what the New York Times labeled the only true boutique hotel on South Beach, the Gale hotel. The Gale hotel located at 1690 Collins Ave, houses Dolce a very fine Italian Restaurant as well as Regent Cocktail Lounge a throw back to what the Beach was like in the 30’s and 40’s. Throughout the lobby and hallways of this hotel is the very history of our community. These pictures dating back to the 1930’s depicts what society was like in those days shows the police, fire and city hall all being very much a part of the community. While Russell’s grandfather provided the food to the prisoners on Miami Beach in the 1930’s and 40’s (before it was moved across the bay) Dolce and the Regent Cocktail lounge serve today as that same type of community epicenter.

Russell Galbut has continued to serve on numerous boards of public, charity, and private companies. He is one of the founding directors and investors of Prestige Cruises, owners of such brands “Regent Seven Seas” and “Oceania” representing over 50% of the premium market space in cruises. In December 2014 Russell will be bringing one of the ships pan-Asian concepts, Red Ginger to the South of Fifth Neighborhood. He is also a director and investor of “Gibraltar Private Bank” which recently just opened a branch on 41st street under the capable hands of Michael Goldberg the incoming Chair to the Chamber. Mr. Galbut also serves on numerous charitable boards including the board of trustees for the “Simon Wiesenthal Center” and “Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.” Russell and the entire Galbut family believe in giving back to society and stand as pillars in our community. The family members have served on every board of our community including Hymie who was a commissioner in the early 60”s. They most recently gave to our community the enabling gift for the “The Galbut Family Miami Beach Jewish Community Center” which stands proudly on Pine Tree Drive at 42nd Street across the street from where the matriarch of the family still resides, Bessie Galbut.

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