How I Built an Empire and Gave It Away


About the book

Joe Zilber was one amazing individual. An extraordinary entrepreneur and one of Americas leading philanthropists, he started a small real estate company in 1949, which he built in to a thriving multi-million dollar real estate enterprise.

After 60 years in business, Joe Zilber turned his attention to philanthropy, giving back to the areas throughout the country that had given him success but especially to the city of his birth, Milwaukee. He gave generously to its schools and civic institutions, creating and funding a plan to rebuild its most challenged neighborhoods.

In this memoir, his story of deals well done and of a life well lived, Joe Zilber recalls his joys and heartbreaks, deals that made millions, partners who disappointed and others who brought great success, good friends made and lost, and a lifetime of risks understood and taken.

Praise for: How I Built an Empire and Gave It Away

“My family and I, particularly my father, knew, worked with, and admired Joe Zilber. Joe’s contributions to Milwaukee were many and his focus on development of moderate-priced high-value housing and improving Milwaukee s neighborhoods remain as lasting legacies. The Zilber name has become iconic with ideas and

initiatives for the betterment of Milwaukee and our country.”

Herb Kohl, U.S. Senator, Wisconsin

“Joe Zilber was a visionary in numerous ways. He transformed major parts of this city by building thousands of homes for working class families who wanted to be able to live the American dream. Later in life he had another vision to leave a legacy to improve the quality of life, particularly in challenged neighborhoods like those where he grew up. I will always remember the phone call that I received from him when he said that he wanted his legacy to include the old and abandoned Pabst Brewery, where he has literally transformed an area of the city into one that is now thriving. He also understood the need to help those who were left behind, which he did out of a sense of civic responsibility and caring for human beings, and that legacy certainly lives on. He has left his mark in so many ways, for which I, and the citizens of our city, will be eternally grateful.”

Tom Barrett, Mayor of Milwaukee

“During his lifetime, Joe Zilber provided a model of conduct focused on doing the right thing. This included purchasing and destroying all of the Jeffrey Dahmer property used in his trial, running newspaper ads immediately after 9-11 encouraging businesses to keep investing in America in order to prevent the terrorists from winning, and buying the decaying Pabst Brewery and turning it into an historic, sustainable neighborhood. No matter what the issue, Joe Zilber stood up to be counted supplying the wit, wisdom, method and means to demonstrate true leadership wherever and whenever needed. Joe Zilber was, indeed, a remarkable human being.”

Mike Mervis, Vice President, Zilber Ltd. (Retired)

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