From one perspective, the multifamily industry is huge and decentralized. More than 16 million apartments sprawl across the country, with big players controlling hundreds of thousands of units and tiny firms managing just a building or two. But if you go to a multifamily trade show, you'll sense the feeling of community in the industry. Executives from apartment and condo companies large and small mingle like old friends with their colleagues, bankers, institutional investors, technology providers, and association leaders. They greet each other in the hallway or at a cocktail reception, sit down at a small table, and quickly start doing business. But these people, who exert tremendous influence on the direction of the apartment and condo business, aren't the only ones with power. Look outside the industry, and you'll see other individuals asserting their authority in ways that aren't always positive for multifamily firms, as the actions of President George W. Bush and Rabbi Bruce E. Kahn show.
So, when Multifamily Executive set out to name the most influential people in the industry, we had lots of men and women from whom to choose. (We also received numerous nominations from MFE readers.) We sifted through the names and explanations, choosing just 30 to highlight in this story. Some selections, such as the handful of apartment REIT leaders on this list, are obvious. Others are not. But that's the nature of influence: It often operates most effectively behind the scenes. –Les Shaver
Susanne Hiegel, director of multifamily solutions, Fannie Mae. Sometimes influence isn't necessarily confined to the top of the corporate ladder. If you don't believe that, look at Susanne Hiegel. At Fannie, Hiegel deals with the big clients and massive transactions involving multiple properties. In this capacity, she's facilitated deals for Equity Residential (two deals of more than $200 million and four deals of more than $100 million) and Camden Property Trust (a $272 million fixed-rate transaction for a group of 12 joint ventures between Camden and clients of the Tuckerman Group). Hiegel is so well-liked that these big clients will ask for her. The reason: They know the influence she has inside Fannie Mae. While her bosses have come and gone over the years, Hiegel has remained a constant. Her supervisors respect her opinion, and when she backs a deal, they normally follow, says one industry executive.
Ronald E. Harwick, vice president and founding partner, James, Harwick + Partners. If the project calls for high density, mixed use, or urban infill, JH+P architects can showcase a dazzling design portfolio. The Dallas-based firm is a leading proponent of the New Urbanism school of design. Cityville Fitzhugh, a Dallas project that wraps three-story residential construction around a parking garage, won MFE's Project of the Year: Low-Rise award in 2005. The company's townhome designs for Atlanta's Perry Homes master plan development garnered a 2005 NAHB Pillars award as best affordable project. Those closest to Harwick describe him as a man who insists on designing "buildings that work." His background in construction and spec writing also gives him a strong feel for the economics of his projects. Yet the firm delivers a surprising amount of amenities, even in government-sponsored senior-housing projects.
Jorge Perez, chairman and CEO, The Related Group of Florida. During the past several years, condos have been king in multifamily. It would be hard to believe that anyone has more made money off these for-sale units than Related chieftain Jorge Perez. Last year, Related found itself at number two on MFE's list of Top 50 multifamily builders on the strength of its condo development. The firm's portfolio holds projects valued in excess of $10 billion. But Related's condos aren't just mass-produced, cookie-cutter buildings. Above all, Perez values art and beauty, which has led to such elaborate projects as the Icon South Beach (which features a 27-foot coffee urn in the lobby). It's not just South Florida that's taken notice. In 2005, Time magazine named Perez one of the 25 most influential Hispanics in the country. Proof of his ascendance in the industry: When you're at real estate conferences and someone mentions condos, someone else mentions The Related Group of Florida within minutes.
Carol J. Galante, president and CEO, BRIDGE Housing. Building in California isn't easy. Any developer will tell you that. So when someone builds 8,500 homes, it's newsworthy. The headlines get even bigger when you learn the homes are affordable. But that's exactly what BRIDGE Housing in San Francisco has done. To be able to fight NIMBY issues and build affordable developments, BRIDGE leader Galante wields a tremendous amount of influence with local governments. The firm pulls off big deals, like the $108 million mixed-used North Beach Place joint venture in San Francisco with John Stewart Cos., that most other affordable developers only dream about. "She has the ability to lean on a community to get them to step up to the plate in affordable housing," says John Stewart, chairman of John Stewart Cos. "She's very successful."
Mary Ann King, president, Moran & Co. When it comes to mastering the "art of the deal," few in the apartment business can match the skills of Mary Ann King. Since 1994, King has been responsible for more than half of the $5.1 billion in apartment transactions handled by Moran,a national apartment investment and brokerage firm. "She's extremely bright, technically savvy, and brings great depth to the process of buying and selling," says one apartment expert. In a transactions field traditionally dominated by the "old boys network," King has earned the reputation as perhaps the most successful broker in California. "Mary Ann's a terrific role model for women in real estate," notes a REIT executive. Active both with ULI and as 2005 vice chair of the National Multi Housing Council, King is also much in demand as a conference speaker.
Mike Mueller, CEO, Realty DataTrust. When Mike Mueller worked at CB Richard Ellis, his colleagues always wondered why he spent so much time messing with computers. They soon found out when he launched AllApartments.com, one of the first places people could search for apartments online. Many credit the site and Mueller with pioneering the idea of looking for apartments online. Mueller eventually sold AllApartments.com, which became Homestore, and took a break from the business. But his vacation didn't last long. Seeing a need for a software product that consumers could use to research, price, and reserve apartments online, he returned with VaultWare, and again, he's at the head of the pack. "Mueller is trailblazing when it comes to online leasing," says Dan Haefner, senior vice president and chief information officer for Lane Co. in Atlanta.