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Joseph Aaron Littman

LITTMAN, JOSEPH AARON (1898–1953), British property tycoon. One of the earliest and most successful of England's well-known property magnates, Joe Littman was born in Russia, lived in New York, and moved to London in the 1920s. He began purchasing properties in the 1930s, specializing in high street retailers in suburban London. Littman pioneered the so-called sale and leaseback agreement, under which a financial institution would buy a site and lease it back to him on very long (sometimes 999-year) leaseholds, he in turn subletting it to shops on short leases. Both he and the financial institution, usually a building society, thus benefited, meanwhile eliminating much of the red tape notorious in British real estate. Littman concentrated on already existing properties rather than on building new ones and, after 1945, moved heavily into blue chip retail investment in London's West End, especially Oxford Street. When Littman died of lung cancer at the age of 55, he left a fortune of £3.3 million, a fabulous sum given Britain's very high rates of taxation. Many other successful British property developers imitated his methods.

His son LOUIS (THOMAS SIDNEY) LITTMAN (1925–1987), a Cambridge-educated solicitor and farmer, was the founder of the well-known Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, which he began in 1965 in memory of his father. It has published many scholarly works and studies on Jewish history, religion, and culture.


ODNB online; O. Marriott, The Property Boom (1967); L. Littman, "The Littman Library of Jewish Civilisation," in: JHSET, 29 (1982–86), 311–26.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.