How Don Peebles Runs The Family Business
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Real estate mogul and possible NYC mayoral candidate Don Peebles is bringing his 21-year-old son Donahue up in the business. The founder of Peebles Co is watching as his son has taken the lead on a planned hotel at 5th Street and Massachusetts Ave NW in DC. And basketball is how he got there.
Well, basketball and a desk at the office since he was a teenager. Donahue told the crowd of 250 who attended our New Generation of Real Estate Leaders event yesterday that, as Don was growing his development firm in Miami, he decided to coach Donahue’s youth basketball team. It wasn’t just because of Dwyane Wade.
“My father was very deliberate in getting me into the business,” Donahue says. “Hard work and attention to detail were really important, and he taught me that through basketball.”
The Peebles family lived in Coral Gables, which made commuting home from Miami to get to a 5:30pm practice untenable. So, Don says, he moved his office to Coral Gables. And when Donahue went to college at Columbia, he spent summers in the office, taking a look at potential projects when the 5th and Mass proposal—an RFEI with the District—got his attention.
It’s a project that Don bid on before, and lost. He embraced Donahue’s proposal—against the advice of some of his executives, he says, “but I don’t run a democracy”—and Peebles Corp won the bid. They presented to the BZA on Tuesday (they’ll be going back, Donahue says) and hope to break ground next year.
Don is focused more on New York than his hometown of DC these days: he’s handling the conversion of the New York Life building (the one from all their commercials) into high-end condos ($3,200/SF) and hope to close $500M in financing next week.
He’s also mulling a run for mayor—Donahue took some time to pre-campaign for his dad at the end of their fireside chat, moderated by Baker Tilly’s Todd Stokes. “There’s nobody more qualified who will fight more passionately for the City of New York than my father,” he says. (Don’s a Democrat, but is friends with Donald Trump. Just like Hillary Clinton!)
After our political detour, Bisnow’s final 2015 panel, the company founder’s circle, told the crowd the pitfalls of entrepreneurship in modern DC real estate. Snapped: Moderator Meridith Moldenhauer of Griffin, Murphy, Moldenhauer & Wiggins (bet you can’t say that one time fast), Javelin 19’s Jill Homan, JCR Cos’ Joe Reger and Boundary Cos’ John Wilkinson.
The group discussed a wide range of topics, and handed out advice for those looking to follow in their footsteps. John’s: pay attention to emerging opportunities. “If you have a deliberate plan, it’s usually something else that pops up that you wind up going with.”
Crixis Construction Management founder John Leinberger—the one with the patriotic ankles—says "reputation is the most important thing you can have in business." His construction company's first project, conveniently enough, was renovating his lawyer's house. Now he specializes in office and restaurant tenant build-out.
Martin Ditto, who used to work at Bozzuto, doesn't have a long-term plan, he's just focusing on iterating over the next two to three years, designing funky apartment projects like the Oslo.