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CHICAGO-During Tuesday’s RealShare conference, hosted by Real Estate Media, publishers of Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com, editor-in-chief Michael G. Desiato sat down with John Buck, chairman and CEO of the John Buck Co. for a feature presentation, “Inside the Real Estate Mind.”

Relaxed in plush chairs with only a side table between them, the two spoke face-to-face like old friends in front of a room of more than 400 attendees. The two discussed Buck’s roots in rural Texas, his early days and ultimate rise in Chicago real estate, and his current philanthropic endeavors.

In the ‘80s, Buck said, the culture of business was different than it is today. Buck, who started his firm in 1981 after raising $257,000 to develop 200 S. Wacker, said working among young, single brokers, was “a lot of fun.”

For Buck, brokerage was the stepping-stone to getting into development. But where there once were 100 brokers in the market, there are now 1,000, he said. And the nature by which deals are accomplished is much different, he said. Yesterday’s golf course has been replaced by a much more sophisticated line of communication. “It’s no longer who you know,” he said.

The John Buck Co. is employee owned and now boasts 40 co-owners. The decision to run the company with employee ownership was better for the company and better for him personally, he said. “It gives folks the option to have an ordinary income or the opportunity to invest along side the company.”

Buck is also very involved in the community service, with education at the top of his philanthropic agenda. What started between friends over a few beers and a $700 donation has now turned into an annual summer event for Chicago socialites. On Thursday, the John Buck Co. will hold its 17th Annual Spring Fling benefiting Learn Charter School and the John Buck Co. Foundation, which supports Chicago area organizations with programs emphasizing education.

Today, through many successes and some failed attempts, the John Buck Co. develops office, high-rise residential, hotel and retail/entertainment projects, completing more than 25 million sf with approximately $6 billion worth of arranged financing. The company also oversees more than 10 million sf of office space in the Chicago metropolitan area as well as in Washington, DC.

“When I started, I was a million dollars in the hole,” Buck said, laughing. “I should have gone broke, but I never did. And now, we look pretty smart.”

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