Masters of Real Estate: How These Successful Developers Made It Big

For those interested in a career in real estate, an advanced degree may be the best investment. Many of the most successful real estate developers in the country have a degree beyond a bachelor’s, often parlaying their business and legal knowledge into a career that landed them mogul status.

Take real estate entrepreneur Stephen Ross who has a net worth of $7.4 billion. Ross started his real estate career by using his knowledge of federal tax laws to organize deals for investors. This allowed them to take advantage of the incentives granted by the federal government on the construction of federally subsidized affordable housing. That enabled him use his real estate experience and income to begin development of apartments, condominiums, retail, office space, and mixed-use buildings with a focus on high-quality architecture and engineering.

Ross is currently developing the largest private development project ever in America—the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project, which will transform 28 acres of Manhattan into more than 12 million square feet of office, residential, and retail space.1

The Sky is the Limit in Real Estate Development

  • Richard LeFrak, worth an estimated $6.4 billion, is another example of real estate accomplishment.2 LeFrak who earned a doctorate in law, joined the family-owned real estate firm in 1968 and was appointed president in 1975. By the 1980s, LeFrak and his father began to redevelop Newport in Jersey City, N.J., a $10 billion development on 600 acres consisting of office buildings, apartments, hotels, an urban beach, and schools. The LeFrak family continues to expand on the high value of the Newport location. Its latest project is a luxurious residential tower of 41 floors, the Ellipse, expected to be complete in 2017.
  • Leonard Stern owns more than 37 million square feet of property in New York and New Jersey, as well as a luxury tower in Chicago.3 Worth an estimated $4.1 billion his success was based on an ability to envision real state potential. Stern, who has his MBA, purchased 750 acres of land in New Jersey for $13,000 per acre. Formerly known for pig farms and chemical dumps, it is now worth an estimated $500,000 per undeveloped acre.  
  • CBRE Group is a commercial real estate firm that has 372 locations worldwide, roughly 70,000 employees and $11 billion in revenue.4 The CEO, Bob Sulentic began his career in 1984 as an industrial leasing agent in Houston, Texas for Tramwell Crow, CBRE’s biggest competitor. Over the next 23 years, Sulentic served in various positions with Tramwell. In 2006, CBRE agreed to buy Tramwell Crow Co. and Sulentic’s knowledge of every aspect of commercial real estate led to him eventually working his way back up to the CEO position.
  • Jerry Speyer had owned, redeveloped, or managed more than 150 million square feet of property around the world. Worth an estimated $4 billion, Speyer’s career began as an assistant to the Vice President of Madison Square Garden. There, he learned the fundamentals of event and commercial real estate. In 1978, he co-founded Tishman Speyer, which manages New York City’s Chrysler Building, Rockerfeller Center, and Yankee Stadium.
  • Jorge Perez, worth an estimated $2.8 billion, got his start building affordable housing in Florida. He eventually moved onto high-end condos and has since been labeled the “condo king of Miami” by the Wall Street Journal.

Hard Work, Experience, and Knowledge Pay Off

These real estate masters earned success in many different ways. Some excelled at marketing, negotiation, or property management, some of them inherited the family business, but the common denominator for the success was experience, hard work all grounded in the basic knowledge and teachings of business and real estate development. And….location, location, location.

If you would like to learn more about the online master’s in real estate program offered by Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies, request more information or contact an admissions representative at (202) 687-8888.