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New Ryan Cos. CEO Brian Murray On The Firm's Future Plans And Grooming The Next Generation Of Ryans


Historic changes are afoot at Ryan Cos. Longtime CEO Pat Ryan is stepping down June 1 to become chairman of the company’s board of directors. Brian Murray, Ryan Cos.’ chief financial officer and chief operating officer since 2009, will succeed him. It is the first time in Ryan Cos.’ 80-year history the company’s executive masthead will not include a member of the Ryan family. To hear Murray tell it, the change is mainly a formality.

“We knew Pat would eventually transition to chair the board. We didn’t know it would happen in 2018,” Murray said.

It is part of a broader push to change the makeup of Ryan Cos.

Ryan Cos. Chairman Emeritus Tim Gray, Board Chairman Pat Ryan, President Jeff Smith, Chief Investment Officer Mike McElroy and CEO Brian Murray

Jeff Smith is assuming the role of president, Mike McElroy will become Ryan Cos.’ new chief investment officer and Tim Gray, whom Ryan is succeeding as board chairman, will become chairman emeritus.

The transition plan was in place for years and the trio of Murray, Smith and McElroy have been running Ryan Cos.’ day-to-day operations the past five years. The division of responsibilities between them will remain in place: Smith will handle sales and development efforts, McElroy will take care of capital markets and financing, and Murray will handle construction and shared service functions.

Ryan has been with Ryan Cos. in some capacity for 35 years. He turns 65 in June and believes a CEO’s time in the role should be between eight years and 12 years. It is a belief Murray shares, and he sees his time as CEO as an opportunity to groom the next generation of Ryans for bigger roles in the company. Pat Ryan’s son, Mike, heads the firm’s Minneapolis office. Three of Ryan Cos.’ late CEO Jim Ryan’s kids are in the family business: Molly Ryan-Carson is the firm’s Phoenix market leader and her brothers Tim and Sean are project managers in Seattle and Minnesota, respectively. Murray envisions himself, Smith and McElroy as a bridge between generations of Ryans.

“But family members will have to prove they have the aptitude to earn it. We knew we were stewards of the family business and we will be responsible to groom the next generation,” Ryan said.

Ryan Cos. Board Chairman CEO Pat Ryan

Ryan Cos. has grown to become a national powerhouse employing 1,300 people in 15 markets across the country, with revenues averaging $1.5B annually. The company used to be primarily a design/build firm but now has robust activity in five product types: senior living, healthcare, retail, industrial and corporate build-to-suits.

Murray said senior living and healthcare has a lot of growth potential, and Ryan Cos. has 10 senior living projects completed or under development in eight markets across the Midwest, Florida, Tennessee and Arizona. The company has been more focused on industrial since 2012, with a high degree of automation and refrigeration projects completed or in the pipeline. Murray said industrial accounts for one-third of the company’s overall volume.

Ryan Cos. is looking to diversify its employment ranks, as well.

“At the leadership ranks, we’re white male-oriented. There will be a greater percentage of people of color in the world, and we need to do a better job of finding people of color and women in the industry and making Ryan an epicenter,” Murray said.

Ryan Cos. expanded its recruiting efforts at historically black colleges and universities, and schools with prominent Hispanic populations, to court a wider talent pool. Internally, the firm conducted unconscious bias training for its employees to inform future training curriculum and recruitment efforts, and regularly updates the board of its efforts.

“This is something that is an industrywide issue. The efforts we’re making today ensure this is a priority within the company for years to come,” Murray said.

Murray wants Ryan Cos. to be at the forefront of leveraging tech and innovation in real estate. He wants to build a pipeline to train workers for skilled trades. He said there are incredible jobs in the trades, but conversations in high school in recent years have focused on going to college. Murray said Ryan is laying the groundwork to encourage students to pursue careers in the trades out of high school. He also sees the skilled trades as an opportunity to bring more immigrants into the fold, and hopes immigration reform will support the company’s efforts.