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If ever there were a year to acknowledge the men and women who helm our commercial real estate companies, the past 12 months would be it. Since the pandemic began, there have been high levels of bankruptcies and some distress, albeit not as much as those funds formed for the purpose of snapping up bargains would have liked to see. Whatever the level, though, the past year has been a challenging one as COVID upended the economy, caused the deaths of half a million and counting Americans and rewrote some fundamental rules about the industry (WFH comes to mind here). It is a testament to these industry leaders that CRE is emerging from the health crisis, just a little battered and worse for the wear—but nothing that a booming recovery can’t fix. We selected this group, as we do every year, based on their business acumen, how well they treat their employees and the type of culture and environment they set at their firms. While the former was on clear display this year, as you read on you’ll find the other attributes did not fall by the wayside. Which is the mark of true leaders.
BILL BAYLESS For 27 years, Bill Bayless has led American Campus Communities as CEO, building a reputation as one of the nation’s foremost experts on student housing. With Bayless at the helm of the company, American Campus Communities has grown into one of the largest student housing developers, owners and managers, with a total value of $8.5 billion and a portfolio of 201 student housing properties in the US and Canada totaling 137,900 beds. During his tenure, the firm has completed $16.4 billion in transactions, produced a compounded annual growth rate in net operating income of 21% and delivered shareholder returns of more than 420%. Bayless’ leadership supports internal career growth as well; nurturing staff from onsite property manager to COO—as in the case of Jennifer Beese—or from onsite maintenance to VP of projects—as is the case of Wayne Taylor. Above all, Bayless is known for his passion and commitment to provide quality student housing. “The enthusiasm that Bill brings to the job has not waned one bit since the launch of the company in 1993,” says board member, Oliver Luck. “He is an excellent leader, someone who engenders dedication and commitment from his team while recognizing the humanity in his staff.”
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