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The Men Who Left the Crow’s Nest

How Dallas dynamos learned from Trammell and soared on their own
By Emily Freeman Pinkston |

WHEN YOU HEAR the name Trammell Crow, you immediately think of large-scale development. And there’s no question that Crow is the stuff of which legends are made. During the late Forties, while overseeing what had been his father-in-law’s grain business, he spotted an opportunity to lease out some warehouse space that wasn’t needed for the grain operation. When his tenant needed more space, Crow built a warehouse rather than lose his tenant’s patronage. Then he built another warehouse. Then he moved on to shopping centers, multi-family housing and suburban offices. After that came big downtown skyscrapers and market centers. Now, it’s hotels.

Today, the Trammell Crow Co. owns and manages 140 million square feet of office, retail and industrial space and has 15 million more feet under way. You could fit all the office space in downtown Dallas inside the company’s holdings four times. The company’s assets total $5 billion. And those assets are only a portion of the Crow empire, which also includes two separate companies that develop residential projects, market centers and hotels.

But the Trammell Crow legend goes well beyond his unquestioned place as the nation’s No. 1 diversified real estate developer. To those who know him, his acumen for spotting people with the right stuff-what he calls “our kind of people’-is unchallenged. Therein lies not only a living legend, but a legacy. For it is through the people Crow has selected that landmark buildings around the country-and the world-have risen.

Crow has surrounded himself with the best and the brightest. Says Crow about the importance of the people in a company: “It’s the mechanism and the limitation, if not the key.”

Although Crow says he has also “picked some losers,” the above-average consistency with which winners have been chosen has created a rather distinctive group. “You could put all the Trammell Crow people in a great big ballroom, mix them up with a whole lot of folks, and you could go through and with a great deal of accuracy, be able to say, “That’s a Trammell Crow person; that’s not,’” says John P. Collins, an ex-senior partner whose desk was 10 feet away from Crow’s during his stint with the development company.

Collins recalls the interviewing process at the Crow company, during which he and other senior partners would get the first crack at a job candidate: “Maybe my interview would last 45 minutes. Then Trammell would ask each of us what we thought. You could tell in three minutes that he’d already started drawing conclusions about the guy-and he was usually right. He’s got a phenomenal track record in identifying the areas that those people might be strong in and in identifying the guys that were really not interested.”

Crow’s selection criteria is rather straightforward, although his perception is clearly penetrating. Says Crow about the characteristics he looks for: “The first thing I try to look for is a nice person. Next is brains.” More often than not, he selects MBAs: “They’re older and have stipulated their seriousness by becoming one. Even if they’re not ’finished’ people, they have gained the ’scientific knowledge-the vocabulary itself-of the work,” says Crow.

Selecting the brightest MBAs who also have an entrepreneurial spirit puts companies such as Crow’s on top. It also carries a risk. By nature, entrepreneurs are people who have an urge to run their own shows.

Crow’s son, Harlan, partner-in-charge of Dallas office development, explains the advantage of the hiring practice: “What would you rather have-someone who sits on your payroll for 25 years or someone who has the smarts and the spirit to get out there and do something but who may go out and do his own thing?” (Harlan has two siblings in the business: Trammell S. Crow, chairman of the board of the Dallas Market Center, and Lucy Crow Billingsley, president of Dallas Market Center.)

Although the company’s partnership setup has its incentives for staying, people with “smarts” and pluck have moved from the Trammell Crow Co. or from Crow partnerships and have done their own thing. John Eulich is the driving force in Vantage Companies, which was listed as the nation’s seventh largest diversified developer in 1983 by Building Design & Construction magazine. Robert E. Glaze, who was the company’s chief financial officer and known as Crow’s right-hand man, is a respected consultant. Gillis Thomas, another ex-senior partner, deals in warehouses-his key area while with Crow. Willard Baker, once part of Crow’s residential operation, now develops offices, showrooms, warehouses and residential subdivisions. These individuals and the former Crow associates profiled on these pages are only a partial list of the living legacy of Trammell Crow.



Mack Pogue

Chairman of the Board and

Chief Executive Officer

Lincoln Property Co.

“Tell Trammell that I’m going to keep chasing him. That’s going to keep him young and keep him going to work every day real early because he’s going to keep looking over his shoulder.”

Mack Pogue isn’t being cocky. Nor does he make that statement without a hint of admiration for the senior developer, despite the fact that his Lincoln Property Co. is one of the two or three in the country-along with Crow’s-that tops the billion-dollar mark in annual construction. With eyes twinkling and tongue (perhaps only partially) in cheek, he levels a friendly challenge to his friend of 21 years, partner of 13 years, mentor-and yes, a competitor in some arenas.

The two men met in 1963, when Pogue sold Crow some land through the brokerage company for which he worked. At the time, Pogue was a youngster in the real estate business, having entered the field only three years earlier.

Although Pogue had only a few years of experience, Crow spotted the enterprising nature that would eventually take Pogue to lead what is recognized as the nation’s largest multi-family residential development and management company. On Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1965, Pogue and Crow became partners and formed an apartment development company, Lincoln Property Co. At that time, the Trammell Crow Co. was a more loosely organized group of partnerships, and Crow frequently formed partnerships outside the organization for specific projects or to broaden the base of development in which he was involved.

“I was responsible for where and what we built,” explains Pogue. “It was my deal in that sense, but I had to call on him [Crow] for help in financing. But don’t miss the contribution Trammell made during those years. It was far beyond financial.”

Like the Trammell Crow Co., LPC develops, leases and manages its own properties. Other large-scale diversified developers follow the same philosophy of long-term ownership, but many companies-either because of philosophy or an inability to carry the long-term debt while starting new construction-develop buildings, then sell them almost immediately or as soon as the tax write-offs peak. The philosophy is based in part on a belief that continued inflation will always create a return when financing is at a fixed rate. Says Pogue: “Trammell would say, ’You just put them in place and you keep them, and inflation will always continue.’”

The organizational structure of the two companies is quite similar. Both companies consist of a number of partnerships. Local partners spot development opportunities, and (if the project is approved) oversee the building, leasing and long-term management. As partners, they have a financial interest (and risk) in the project-a major incentive for development. The umbrella company provides backup functions such as accounting, legal, financing and public relations. Although Pogue readily says that he simply copied the basic Crow partnership organization at his company, he added his own twist with six regional partners who answer directly to him and to whom the local partners answer.

The two companies evolved along different lines-Crow’s out of warehousing/industrial development and Pogue’s out of residential development-but both are considered by most real estate experts to be the top two diversified real estate companies in the country. To date, 19-year-old LPC has developed approximately 110 million square feet of space in apartments, hotels, office buildings, shopping centers and warehouses. That translates to 3.1 times the square footage of the office space in Dallas’ Central Business District and a cost of approximately $4.5 billion. In 1983, LPC’s construction starts totaled almost $1.2 billion. Primarily an apartment development company in the early days, the company now concentrates more on commercial work.

“I couldn’t possibly tell you where I’d be had he not given me the opportunity. Even giving us every benefit of the doubt, I can tell you we wouldn’t have gotten here as quickly as we have,” says Rogue. “But that’s just part of the whole game. You look for guys you think can do it. You back them, and you let them go do it.”



Curtis Eugene (Gene) Coker

Chief Executive Officer

CE.C. Construction Co.

Coker Development Companies

Gene Coker’s adult life has run from rocks to rags to riches. He studied geology at Yale and Rice, but his career in geology lasted all of six months. It wasn’t so much that shale didn’t hold his attention, but geology as applied in the plodding corporate world of the big oil companies didn’t appeal to him.

“You couldn’t have an idea and act on it,” says Coker. “I think that’s what appeals now. If you have an idea that you think is good and you can get financed, then you go with it. It’s the creative part that I like.”

Real estate development, by nature a creative enterprise that demands an ability to move when the timing is right, is Gene Coker’s style. But he didn’t get into what was ultimately to become his development and construction companies without stumbling over a few more rocks. For a while after his stint in geology, he sold piece goods to garment manufacturers; then he moved on to sell the roof trusses that his brother, James, manufactured.

“The company basically was going bankrupt. Trammell loaned us some money through the SBIC (Small Business Investment Corp.). In essence, he gave us an opportunity by helping us to incorporate Coker Brothers Construction Co.,” says Coker. At that time, Coker knew virtually nothing about construction. But Crow spotted something in the two brothers that made him willing to invest in them. The debts were paid off, and within six years, the company was buying land where the old Highland Park Airport stood-the land now known as Park Central.

“He [Crow] took a group of really hungry people-hungry in the sense of wanting to achieve something-who were reasonably bright and wanted to work hard, and then he loosely let us go. I don’t think there was ever anything he told us we couldn’t do unless it violated another partner’s territory. That was the rule. He wouldn’t allow one partner to encroach on another partner’s area-either expertise or geographical.”

In 1972, Coker left the Crow partnerships to form his own company. “Leaving the Crow company was a difficult thing to do at the time, but it was the best thing in the world for my own personal well-being. Either you make it yourself, or you don’t. That’s the challenge of it, and that’s the fun of it,” says Coker.

Coker left with “some money, some land and its attendant debt, five superintendents, a bookkeeper and 10 years of experience.” With those assets, Coker founded C.E.C. Construction Co. After a couple of years of primarily doing construction work, Coker worked his way into the development of shopping centers (contributing to The Corner Shopping Center at Walnut Hill Lane and North Central Expressway, for example), office buildings (such as Coit Office Park) and warehouses.

Even though Coker’s companies have worked on $40 to $50 million in construction and $25 to $30 million in development, Coker doesn’t play the role of the successful CEO. You won’t find the slick portfolios or the glass-encased scale models in his reception area. Unless he has to attend a special meeting, Coker may not even be wearing a suit.

For Coker, work is not all there is to life. Thinking about his career, he says, “Sometimes I wish I did more in terms of buildings, but I’m not sure that I’m willing to commit to that kind of time. I enjoy being with my family-my wife of 26 years and my four children. I have other interests: farming-I’m just a gentleman farmer-hunting and fishing.”



Frederick Brodsky

President/Founder

International Investment Advisors

As founder and head of International Investment Advisors, Fred Brodsky has a knack for matching the right property to the right investor at the right time. Working primarily in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, he’s put together between $150 to $200 million worth of transactions within the last five years. He’s been successful by plotting and replotting his investment course four times to anticipate the changing market winds. When developing residential properties was hot in Piano, for instance, Brodsky was there. He pulled out during 1980 just before the mortgage rates climbed and the residential market slumped in 1981. Today, he’s betting on a southern wind: He has secured 412 acres of land in South and Southwest Dallas. Hickory Hill (a 275-acre tract at Hampton, Interstate 20, Wheatland, Old Hickory and Danieldale) is a key area he’s betting on for development, some of which may begin this year. He’s also betting on his condominium development at Lake Texoma, which is now under construction.

Although an intimate knowledge of the Dallas/Fort Worth market is essential to Brodsky’s success, he must also have his eyes turned toward Europe. It’s from countries such as Belgium, England, Holland and France (as well as Kenya and India) that Brodsky gets his clients.

“When I first started business, I was going to Europe seven or eight times a year. For the last couple of years, I’ve only gone twice a year. For the most part, that’s just to keep contact with what’s going on in Europe,” says Brodsky.

Brodsky doesn’t spend much time searching for new investors anymore. For the past four years, he’s had the same clients-fewer than 10 investors. He doesn’t have to syndicate his investments; he works deals one-on-one with each client. Brodsky’s clients are the kind who can write checks with seven or more digits.

Knowing the European investor market well enough to reach and gain the trust of such prime investors takes time. Along with an educational background in international finance, Brodsky has experience overseas, ranging from a job in a French sweater factory to a position in the World Communications division of International Telephone & Telegraph to his three-and-a-half-year stint as manager of finance and administration with Trammell Crow Co.’s international operation.

Brodsky joined the Crow company just months before the real estate market went sour in the mid-Seventies. Those years were tough, even at the Crow company. Hard assets had to be sold in order to increase cash flow. Most of Brodsky’s time was spent crisscrossing Europe and traveling to the South Pacific to solve problems and close down operations.

“Doing nothing but working on problems for three and a half years builds up a tremendous amount of frustration for anyone who has an entrepreneurial bent. Once we got a problem solved, we eliminated the operating entity in that country. What I was doing was working myself out of a job,” says Brodsky.

Had Brodsky been with the Crow operation during a more expansive time-almost any other time in the company’s history-things might have been different. But solving problems, says Brodsky, “isn’t a positive way to live your life. All you’re doing is cutting your losses.” For Brodsky, making gains is a lot more fun.



James (Jim) H. Coker

Founder/President

The Jim Coker Companies

Jim Coker is a diversified developer. He’s also a prodigiously diversified person. Because he’s at that stage in his business where he doesn’t have to personally manage projects just to keep his portfolio alive, Coker is diversifying even more.

“I’m spending more time doing other things right now and letting the people in our organization develop their own style and their own type of projects,” says Coker. “There are some holes missing in my experience and education that I want to fill.”

Coker didn’t always have such freedom to pursue outside interests. Making ends meet was a full-time undertaking back in 1962, when he and his brother Gene started their association with Trammell Crow. Business had not been good. In fact, the bottom line was zero at the time.

“Trammell put $1,000 in the bank, and my brother and I started the construction company [Coker Brothers Construction Co.], half of which Trammell owned. We were very lucky, and we had a lot of help. It was a good time to start such a company,” says Coker. During its first year, the company made $15,000. By the third year, it had brought in a net profit of $300,000 and was growing fast.

Jim Coker’s interests began to turn more toward development, and in 1968, he and Crow purchased 72 acres of land in North Dallas for an office development. He became the managing partner for the project, Park Central, which eventually grew to 305 acres. Coker stayed on as managing partner for another year after Equitable Life Assurance Society bought a majority interest in the project. Then Coker went out on his own.

Coker left the Crow partnerships with something under $2 million, an amount he has now multiplied many times over. Although the amount was less than the assets he had when he was a partner, market conditions at the time made it difficult to sell an interest in land or to trade out of a partnership, he says. But Coker believes that the intangible assets he took with him were more significant: “The most valuable thing I started [my business] with was the experience of having been a partner with Trammell and having the freedom to make my own mistakes and gain my own experience. Trammell was an unusual partner.. .It was very unstructured. The result was that Trammel 1 allowed people to pretty much determine their own course, to find their own market and to develop as aggressively as their energy level and skills would allow them.”

During the first couple of years on his own, Coker worked as a real estate consultant (“there were plenty of problems in real estate in those days”), then moved back into development. His projects include 3525 Turtle Creek (a joint venture condominium conversion), Cambridge Tower and Medical Park Tower in Austin. Like the Olla Podrida development (part of the Park Central project), which Coker did during his time with Crow, much of his work is with specialty projects.

“We like to take something whose time has past or whose value is over in that usage and convert it to something else,” says Coker.

Robert Kolba

Chief Executive Officer

City Center Development Co.

Bob Kolba doesn’t play the real estate game in the same way that many developers do. He doesn’t just watch his Fort Worth market for an opportunity and then put up a building. “We are basically reshaping a city. It’s just as Trammell has done in many places for many years. Look at what he’s done in Dallas with his market centers: He creates. To be involved in the creative process is as exciting as you can get,” says Kolba.

These days, Kolba is immersed in the creative process with a project designed to revive downtown Fort Worth and attract new business to its core. Working for a parent company, Bass Brothers Enterprises Inc. (one that has the luxury of not requiring an instant return on its investment), Kolba can guide Fort Worth’s City Center development project so it will have the kind of impact that can change the course of a city.

In many ways, City Center is like a city within a city. The nine-block development is a unique blend of new high-rises and old low-rises that provide all the major services that corporations need. Two high-rise towers yield 1.5 million square feet of office space and contain a bank, a private club, a health club, postal facilities, stock brokerage firms, newsstands-even a service station and car wash. On an adjacent two blocks, Sundance Square is the home of a dozen restored turn-of-the-century buildings that are being leased to restaurants, shops and galleries. The 510-room Americana Hotel (with a convention/meeting complex) rounds out the center.

Kolba, as he describes it, “backed into real estate.” After a number of years with the Container Corp. of America and numerous transfers, he decided to settle in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area. True to the enterprising spirit, Kolba started a period of self-study because he felt that his graduate business school courses didn’t provide enough of the nuts and bolts of finance and control-the area he wanted to pursue. After passing a CPA exam, he joined a newly formed development/management company as the chief financial officer (CFO). Through this association, he not only got into the field of real estate finance but connected with the Trammell Crow Co. In 1972, Robert (Bob) E. Glaze, CFO of the Trammell Crow Co., contacted Kolba about a job. The business and personal chemistry were right.

“Bob took me under his wing, nurtured me and trained me. I followed him around and got into some of the things he was doing,” says Kolba. Two key projects he became involved with were Dallas’ Park Central and San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center. Like so many former Crow partners, Kolba sees the open-ended opportunities at the Crow company as the key to his growth: “The Crow Co. is remarkable. Crow allows his associates to do their own thing, to make mistakes, to learn. The opportunities are obviously there. I was just very fortunate to be associated with Trammell.”

When the opportunity to join the Bass group came up in 1978, the Crow organization was in a slow development period. Kolba had grown with the Crow organization, and now the opportunity to widen his experience in other ways presented itself. To the entrepreneurial spirit, the opportunity to grow can’t be denied.



John P. Collins,

Chairman of the Board and

Chief Executive Officer



Robert Duncan,President and

Chief Operating Officer

Transwestern Property Co.

John Collins and Robert Duncan spend a lot of time in the air. Each week, they commute to three cities-Dallas, Houston and Austin-to oversee the work of their Houston-based development firm, Transwestern Property Co. With $250 million of development since the company’s 1978 start-up, the 65-person company has already made its mark on Dallas. On the corner of Ross and St. Paul streets sits their 22-story St. Paul Place, completed last year. At Stemmons and Mockingbird is the 228,000-square-foot Stemmons Center. With three of the four Forest Plaza office buildings in place, the last building of that development project is under construction, bringing the project’s total square footage to just over 1 million. In addition to Four Forest Plaza, the company has committed to building another 1.1 million square feet of space this year-enough work to keep Collins and Duncan in the air between the three cities for many more hours.

The company is relatively young, but the overwhelming will to succeed that’s evident in its two founders’ careers makes the company’s growth no surprise.

Duncan, 35, the company president, is one of those people whom Crow easily identified as “our kind of people.” He earned the expected MBA, but then capped it off with a law degree. After deciding that real estate was the route to take, he set his sights high: “I wanted to be associated with a really fine company and learn how to do it right. After a comprehensive survey into what was out there in the field, I came to the conclusion that the company to be with was the Trammell Crow Co. So I wrote a letter to Mr. Crow and said, ’I’ve been hearing about you for a long time, and wish you’d give me a shot.’ “

Duncan got his shot in the summer of 1974. In what would be a relatively short stint with the company (just under four years), Duncan’s work in Dallas and San Antonio caught the eye of Collins, who was then a senior partner with the Crow company.

Before Collins joined the Crow organization as the only person to be brought in on the level of senior partner, his reputation was well-established. Just as Duncan had gone straight from school to the Dallas-based Crow organization, Collins took his diploma straight to an equally dynamic businessman in Houston: Bud Adams.

“The things I learned from Bud for 17 years had such a broad base that it’s been valuable to me in so many areas. We primarily were in the oil business. But during my time with him, we got into many other businesses. There are not many businesses that I haven’t developed enough knowledge in to at least carry on a conversation,” says Collins. While with Adams, Collins worked in practically every arena from oil to the Houston Oilers. (For example, he was the key negotiator for the move of the Oilers to the Astrodome.) By the time he left, he was the chief operating officer of Adams’ 29 companies.

Collins met Crow through the packaging of a joint venture for one of the Adams companies. The Dallas businessman was impressed enough to invite Collins for a visit, and he soon brought him on board the Crow operation as a senior partner-and the only senior partner who, with the CFO, shared a large office with Crow. While with Crow, Collins not only headed up development in Chicago and the Northwest United States, but he also started operations in land development and agricultural activities.

Collins and Duncan fit the Crow yardstick. In turn, they realize that the people within their company will determine, to a large degree, how well Transwestern Property Co. will do. Says Duncan of his business philosophy: “Projects come and go, and real estate sites come and go. But when you’re thinking long-term, you’ve got to think in terms of building an organization rather than merely buildings.”

This emphasis is not new, but it’s clearly a guiding principle of the Crow empire. Collins even recalls the particular Crowism: “Trammell used to say, ’If you have the right people and give them the opportunity and motivate them, you’re 100 percent assured of success.’”



William R. Cooper Chairman of the Board Paragon Group, Inc.

When William R. Cooper left his partnership in Lincoln Property Co. (LPC) in 1979, he pulled out with about $150 million in assets and a number of partners. Since that time, his own diversified real estate company, Paragon Group Inc., has grown to over $1 billion in assets-a 666 percent increase-despite the potential hindrance of a slow market between 1979 and 1982.

Though Cooper is one to set high goals, his objectives were broadened, he believes, by his association with Crow, who was initially a partner in LPC. Says Cooper: “I think I’d somehow have become a real estate developer and done well with or without my relationship with Trammell. That’s what I wanted to do. That’s what I programmed myself to do. But without Trammell’s influence, I don’t think that I’d have ever done it with anywhere near the scope. Something we all learned from Trammell is that it’s possible to do business in a multi-city operation, and volume can be coped with if you have good people on those projects. I’d say that the influence Trammell had on me was the ability to perceive being big or having a big operation.”

Because Cooper’s father was an architect, he was programmed, in a sense, into real estate at an early age. But Cooper’s goal was not to design buildings. He wanted to develop and own them, and he set out methodically to program himself to do just that. His first major job, however, wasn’t destined to be directly in development.

Through the connection of a fraternity brother, Cooper met with J.F. Murray, head of Murray Investment Co. “I knew he financed a lot of buildings, so I went to Mr. Murray to see if he could arrange interviews with some of his building clients for me to get a job. He said that I needed to know how to finance buildings-not build them,” says Cooper. The advice seemed sound, so he took a job at Murray. During his five years there, he moved up to become head of the commercial loan department, and in that position worked out the financing for some deals for both Mack Rogue and Trammell Crow.

In 1966, Cooper was invited to be a partner in the LPC operation. At the time, LPC was a year old and nothing more than an apartment developer in and around Dallas. “Even though LPC was a new company, I felt like joining the operation was getting in with the ideal people,” says Cooper. LPC was growing fast, however, and Cooper had been recruited to start up operations in the Midwest. He later developed operations for the Southeast and ultimately was also in charge of Dallas development.

Says Cooper: “As time evolved, the partners were growing, maturing and becoming more capable and ambitious. In 1979, a group of the partners in the central and southern region-including Steve Means and Don Shine here in Dallas-and I decided to start a separate company, which was Paragon.”

Since that time, more partners and more offices (stretching from California to the Carolinas) have been added, using the organizational formula which has helped to make both Crow and Pogue wealthy.

“The structure was Trammell’s idea. We at LPC learned it, then modified it from Trammell. Here at Paragon, it’s more continued than changed. The willingness to share the responsibilities, the financial rewards and the authority (with local partners)-those ideas were Trammell’s. I think it’s by far the best way to conduct a national-scale development business,” says Cooper.

The incentives of the partnership structure-in which local partners oversee the project development and share in its financial aspects while the headquarters provides support functions (such as legal and computerized cost accounting)-clearly produces results. Paragon has put in place 13,000 apartments/condominiums and 3.4 million square feet of commercial space (including a small percentage of industrial and retail). Another million square feet of commercial space is under construction, along with 1,400 more apartments. Paragon has also been in joint ventures to produce The Warrington Condominiums (on Turtle Creek) and the Lincoln-Radisson Hotel and Lincoln Centre offices.

Cooper is now setting more goals, since his 1990 projections have already been met. With increase at the present rate continuing to 1990, his company could hit the present assets of the Trammell Crow Co.

Says Cooper, “Trammell has spawned more millionaires than probably anybody in his generation-maybe in the history of this country. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were 100. I don’t know how anybody could prove or disprove this, but I don’t know of anyone else who is even in the race.”



Larry Peebles

President

High Vista Homes, Irving

Signature Homes, Rockwall

Larry Peebles never really planned to get into real-estate development . . . it just sort of happened. The 36-year-old entrepreneur graduated from North Texas State University in December 1971 with an accounting degree and an MBA to his credit. Less than a month later, he had his CPA license and a job with Arthur Andersen & Co. Soon after starting with the company, he was assigned to the team handling the audit of the Trammell Crow Co. He worked on the audit for two years, then, after it was completed, he was promptly hired by his auditee as a financial analyst. He worked in that capacity for 2 1/2 years before getting into the administration of development projects. He wasn’t dissatisfied with financial analysis, he says, but he discovered skills in himself that were amenable to real-estate success.

“As you work, you really learn what your abilities are,” he says. “When you’re in school, you’re just learning how to learn, basically. But when you get out, you may find that you have other skills-administrative skills or skill in dealing with other people-that can’t be tested in the classroom.” He says that “accounting-and business as a whole-is a very good background for real estate. For me, though, it became a means rather than an end.”

Peebles stayed with Trammell Crow fornine years. He left in November 1982 tobecome general manager of High VistaHomes, then a very young operation. Shortly thereafter, he was made president of thecompany, and one year later, he foundedSignature Homes. His years with TrammellCrow opened the door for his present success, he says, “primarily because of all ofthe contacts I made there. Just getting toknow people in the real estate business likeI did [at the Crow Company] was a tremendous boon.” Like the other ex-Crow businessmen surveyed, Peebles is not surprisedthat so many partners have left the firm.”Mr. Crow hires people with entrepreneurial blood, and the very nature of these people is that they’re likely to want to go out andmake it on their own.”

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