Gerald Broker, 82, of Bryn Mawr, a former partner in the law firm of Blank Rome, died Tuesday, Nov. 15, of congestive heart failure at Abramson Center for Jewish Life, North Wales.
Mr. Broker was with Blank Rome from 1961 to 1988. He was elected a partner in 1966 and became head of the firm's real estate group. Blank Rome has offices in Philadelphia, throughout the United States, and abroad.
"Gerry was an innovator in the real estate field, always coming up with new and creative ways to structure transactions for the benefit of our clients," said Alan J. Hoffman, the firm's chairman and managing partner.
A West Philadelphia native, Mr. Broker typified the social ascent of second-generation Eastern European immigrants in postwar America, said his son, Joshua. Mr. Broker's father worked long hours as a manager at Westinghouse while his mother ran a disciplined household and "demanded excellence and engagement from her children," his son said.
Mr. Broker graduated as class president from West Philadelphia High School in 1952, and earned a bachelor's degree from Temple University in 1956 and a degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1959.
He distinguished himself as a law student and was editor of the Law Review. As a result of his academic achievements, Mr. Broker was given a year on scholarship at the London School of Economics in 1961.
At Blank Rome, Mr. Broker gained a reputation as a deal maker and brutally tough negotiator, his son said.
He represented the trustees of the Penn Central Transportation Co. when the company went bankrupt in June 1970. Of all the cases he handled, it was the one of which he was most proud.
"It was a transaction of staggering size and complexity," his son wrote in a eulogy.
During Mr. Broker's 27 years at Blank Rome, the firm grew from 10 to 250 lawyers. In his role as head of the firm's real estate department, Mr. Broker interacted with some of the leading developers, property owners, and investors in the Philadelphia area.
"To this day," his son said, "when I meet a seasoned attorney who had cut his teeth at or across [the negotiating table] from Blank Rome during the 1980s, the conversation typically would start, 'You know, your dad used to scare me.' "
Mr. Broker left Blank Rome to work for one of its clients, Coregroup, Inc., a private equity firm that owned the China Grill restaurant in New York, the Madame Alexander Doll Co., and Braniff Airlines.
In 1991, Mr. Broker joined the Rubin Organization as vice chairman and general counsel. In 1997, the Rubin Organization was acquired by Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust.
Mr. Broker kept working with private clients, and while he scaled down his efforts in the last decade, he never retired.
He was a founding trustee of the Solomon and Sylvia Bronstein Foundation. Established in 1985, the nonprofit makes gifts and grants to Jewish organizations in the Philadelphia area and Israel. Most are designated to help children, improve education, and foster social justice.
He enjoyed sailing, playing tennis, and traveling the world.
Mr. Broker married Hope Ballow, and they raised two children on the Main Line. They divorced. She survives.
He married Cindi Safier. They divorced. She died in 2013.
Besides his son, he is survived by a daughter, Rachel Kaplan; three grandchildren; and a sister.
Services were Sunday, Nov. 20.
Contributions may be made to the Abramson Center for Jewish Life, 1425 Horsham Rd., North Wales, Pa. 19454, or via www.abramsoncenter.org.