Robert Durst, scion of a real estate dynasty whose TV microphone slippage led to a murder conviction – obituary
The eldest of four children, Robert Alan Durst was born on April 12, 1943 in New York. His father, Manhattan real estate magnate Seymour Durst, had inherited the Durst Organization from his own father, a tailor who had arrived in America from Austria-Hungary in 1902 with $3 to his name.
The company has grown to become one of Manhattan’s wealthiest real estate developers, with properties including skyscrapers on Third Avenue, 42nd Street, Times Square and, most recently, One World Trade Center .
In 1950, Robert’s mother committed suicide by jumping from the roof of their mansion in Scarsdale, an event he claimed to have witnessed (although his siblings disputed this). At the funeral, he tried to save the coffin from being lowered into the grave by shouting, “Get mommy out of the box,” and then repeatedly ran away from school and home. His classmates at Scarsdale High School described him as a loner.
Graduating with a degree in economics from Lehigh University, Pennsylvania in 1965, Durst enrolled in a doctoral program at UCLA where he met Susan Berman, but later withdrew from the course and returned to New York in 1969.
He became a real estate developer in his father’s business, but parted ways with the Durst clan when his younger brother Douglas was named head of the family business, estimated to be worth around $880 million.
In 1972 he married Kathleen McCormack, a dental hygienist from Long Island, moved to Vermont with his new wife, and opened a small health food store, All Good Things. The name became the title of a 2010 film based on Durst, starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst and directed by Andrew Jarecki.