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Lee & Associates Founder Bill Lee Dies At 78

Bill Lee, the founder of Lee & Associates, died Monday night from complications of cancer, the company announced Tuesday. Lee was 78 years old.

Lee & Associates founder Bill Lee

“Bill fostered and maintained incredibly close personal and business relationships with Lee & Associates professionals, including his abundant support in our efforts to continue the growth of our company in his entrepreneurial vision,” Lee & Associates CEO Jeffrey Rinkov said in a statement. 

Lee got his start in real estate in 1970 at Grubb & Ellis and seven years later earned his SIOR designation. In 1979, he founded Lee & Associates in Orange County’s El Toro, now called Lake Forest.  

In a 2019 interview with Rinkov, Lee said that he founded the company in part because he felt he was not getting the support and the compensation that he deserved. The opportunity to strike out on his own and keep a bigger part of his commission meant more to him than having a big-name brokerage on his business card.

“I realized that I did it because the future was more valuable to me than the present,” Lee said. 

The company, which heralds itself as the largest broker-owned firm in North America, is structured such that it allows agents to invest in its growth. The offices are owned and operated by the real estate professionals who work there.  

“On this difficult day, I stand in tremendous appreciation with the thousands of real estate professionals and their families that have been so positively impacted by the company Bill created and the unique structure that has served us for 41+ years,” Rinkov said. 

Lee is survived by his four children, Robb, John, Ryan and Katie, and nine grandchildren.