King’s great-grandson Charlotte NC developer dies at 66


A developer who built some of Charlotte and Triangle’s best-known malls and malls, and was a great-grandson of the last king of Bavaria, has died in his native Austria, European media reported.

Count Riprand Franz Maria von und zu Arco-Zinneberg died on August 24 in a hospital in Salzburg, Austria, after a nearly three-year battle with cancer, according to reports. He was 66 years old.

Better known as Count Arco, his business and retail ventures in North Carolina included the Arboretum Mall and the Whitehall Corporate Center in Charlotte, and Brier Creek Commons in Raleigh.

A copy of the announcement of the earl’s death, in German, was published on Wednesday by Royal Musings, a news and commentary site on royal houses in Europe. Earl Arco remained chairman of his development firm American Asset Corp. based in Charlotte until the day of her death, according to the site.

A spokesperson for the New York office of American Asset Corp. confirmed the count’s death to the Charlotte Observer on Friday. Charlotte headquarters officials did not respond to telephone messages from the Observer on Thursday and Friday.

Count Riprand Arco.jpg
In this 1996 file photo, Charlotte developer Count Arco (right) announces planned construction of an office tower near SouthPark Mall. Count Arco died in his native Austria on August 24, 2014, European media reported. JOHN D. SIMMONS Charlotte Observer archive photo

Family history

Count Arco’s great-grandparents were King Louis III and Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria, according to news articles published over the decades by the New York Times and other media.

Bavaria is located in south-eastern Germany, the largest of the country’s 16 Länder. Bavaria borders Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. Its capital is Munich.

Louis III’s reign ended – and with it, the German Empire – in 1918 towards the end of World War I.

Count Arco and his wife, Countess Archduchess Maria Beatrix Arco, were married in 1980 and arrived in the United States in 1983, The New York Times reported in 2010.

Countess Arco was the granddaughter of the last Emperor of Austria, Karl I, according to Royal Musings. “Charlotte” is one of 10 names in the countess’ full royal name, according to the site.

Years after moving to Charlotte, they started buying malls on their kitchen tables, while raising six daughters, according to the Times.

Count Arco told the newspaper that the family also maintained a 15th-century castle near Munich on the Danube from the income he generated as a developer from North Carolina, not his lineage legacy of the Habsburg dynasty.

This 1995 file photo shows the Arboretum Shopping Center in Charlotte. Earl Arco, the Charlotte-based developer and great-grandson of the last King of Bavaria, developed the center through his development company American Assets Corp. BOB LEVERONE Charlotte Observer archive photo

A lasting gift

On the mixed-use retail front, Earl Arco’s company has developed Northcross Mall and Downtown Bryton in Huntersville, Brierdale Mall in Raleigh, Downtown Alston in Cary and the Belle Hall Mall in Mount Pleasant, SC, according to the company’s website.

Commercially, Count Arco has also developed the Brier Creek Corporate Center near Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Fairview Plaza in SouthPark, south of Charlotte.

The Whitehall Corporate Center, on Arrowood Road at Interstate 485, features “one of the largest private collections of public art in the Southeast,” according to the American Assets Corp. website.

Metalmorphosis sculpture in Charlotte, North Carolina on Friday, September 3, 2021. Earl Arco, the developer of Charlotte who designed the sculpture and was the great-grandson of the last King of Bavaria, has died in his native Austria. Khadejeh Nikouyeh [email protected]

In another lasting gift to his adopted hometown of Charlotte, Earl Arco designed Metalmorphlosis, the enormous metal sculpture by Czech sculptor David Cerny in the plaza of the 200-acre Whitehall Corporate Center.

“One of the Seven Wonders of Charlotte, North Carolina,” the company’s website calls the sculpture. Watch a live camera feed of the sculpture at WhitehallCorporateCenter / Metalmorphosis.

The sculpture presents a bust of a person surrounded at its base by water. Sections of the bust continuously moved in a circle, water was pouring out of the mouth.

Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989, covering the region’s population, municipalities and major current events, and was the editor of the newspaper’s press office. He is currently reporting the latest news.

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