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Going Public a

San Francisco

That's how Regency Centers CEO Martin Stein describes his company's decision to go public back in '93. (Maybe Snapchat has been reading his diaries.) Out of the whopping 44 other companies that became publicly-traded REITs that year; just 19 of them are still in the equity REIT index (his sizeable shopping center REIT is one of them).

Yesterday, we were on the ground for REITWorld 2013's opening day at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis, joined by about 1,200 heavyweights. When Regency went public 20 years ago, the goal was to provide a "single scoreboard" for its employees to focus on and build value at the company, says Martin. Since then, he's learned the importance of having transparency with investors and being stewards of capital (smart, when you've got a 46M SF portfolio). In 10 years, his goal is a strong balance sheet with access to capital. The REIT CEO he hopes to emulate? Public Storage's Ron Havner (NAREIT's 2014 chair).

We met with another industry pioneer, Cohen & Steers' Robert Steers (he accepted his 2012 E. Lawrence Miller industry achievement award a year late; he couldn't come last year). Rob established the first REIT investment fund in 1986, and ever since, the REIT marketplace has grown an insane 22% each year. Today his firm manages $48B in assets. He credits the industry's success to a few factors: The "don't go broke--go public" mantra (coined during the real estate debacle of the early '90s) and early believers in the space; he's one of them. Effective Jan. 1, he's the sole CEO of Steers (Martin Cohen will be exec chairman).

Related Topics: Public Storage, Robert Steers