WINNER Jeff Frieden CEO Auction.com www.auction.com
It takes great vision and leadership to create a successful technology company, but a little luck never hurts. When Jeff Frieden and his business partner hired an auctioneer to sell overstock items for their car stereo business, they ended up selling more merchandise in one day than they had all year. It didn’t take the two entrepreneurs long to recognize the power of auctions and launch one of their own.
Frieden became a licensed auctioneer and launched Auction.com after discovering that the majority of homes in Australia and New Zealand are sold via auction. The CEO ventured into the world of virtual real estate transactions and hasn’t looked back.
Over the last 15 years, Auction.com has evolved from being an innovative land auction company into a market disrupter and leader in online sales of residential and commercial properties. The auction site not only encourages people to investigate and consider the idea of buying commercial real estate online, it integrates developments in online marketing with traditional transactions.
To that end, Frieden is dedicated to improving the user experience and developing cutting-edge tools for valuing commercial real estate. In fact, the company’s success recently caught the attention of Google Capital, which invested in Auction.com based on its promising business prospects, organic growth and robust valuation.
Of course, it takes more than luck to retain top-notch talent in the highly competitive technology industry. Frieden provides stock options and regularly shares his vision to engage, motivate and retain engineers and employees. His dream isn’t limited to the future of Auction.com — it includes family and community. He actively supports community outreach by sponsoring charities such as YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, military veterans and the Wounded Warrior Project. Frieden is committed to improving people’s lives as well as the way they buy real estate.
Jeff Hanson Chairman and CEO Griffin-American Healthcare REIT II, Inc. www.healthcarereit2.com
When Jeff Hanson launched the real estate investment trust now known as Griffin-American Healthcare REIT II, Inc. in 2009, he faced the country’s most challenging economic environment since the Great Depression. As a non-listed, non-traded real estate investment trust, the company had no employees, but relied operationally on its sponsor, which was originally Grubb & Ellis Co. As its sponsor struggled through the downturn, the REIT grew increasingly unstable.
Although Hanson, company chairman and CEO, had spent most of his professional career with Grubb as a top broker and head of the investment management platform, he saw advantages in parting ways. Looking out for the shareholders’ best interests, Hanson made the risky decision to split the REIT from its sponsor. Though difficult, that move became the first step to success.
Hanson began to lead the REIT’s independent board through a 60-day transition period to find a new sponsor and broker-dealer. After evaluating other strategic alternatives, Hanson formed American Healthcare Investors to serve as the sponsor, and found Griffin Capital to serve as broker-dealer.
During the transition away from Grubb, Hanson started to reimagine fees, dividend structures and other standard practices within the REIT. When he initiated an executive stock purchase plan, reinvesting in companies in the industry was unheard of; so was signing an irrevocable agreement to invest your entire after-tax salary and bonus compensation, as Hanson did. Senior management followed his lead by investing a fraction of their earnings, and now many broker-dealers actually require management to reinvest.
Since changing sponsors, the REIT has grown exponentially to become the fourth largest diversified health care REIT in the country. Under Hanson’s leadership, the REIT completed a successful public offering. Because of its success, American Healthcare Investors launched Griffin-American Healthcare REIT III this year and plans to launch REIT IV in 2016.
Jerry Fink David Kim Co-founders and managing partners The Bascom Group, LLC www.bascomgroup.com
Finding a way to galvanize sales in a tumultuous real estate market comes with its own set of challenges. Yet David Kim and Jerry Fink, co-founders and managing partners of The Bascom Group, LLC, accomplished just that, with a business plan aimed at improving people’s lives. What started with a 58-unit housing development purchased with an initial investment from a college buddy in 1996 has evolved into an idea-driven real estate network that spans eight western states and touches the lives of thousands of its building residents in positive ways. And with their ongoing ability to access capital from contacts in China and Taiwan, expansion plans are underway for similar projects on the East Coast. Bascom repositions failing multifamily housing communities by making major capital improvements, streamlining expenses, and significantly improving their management and customer service offerings. The buildings they invest in get modern makeovers with new pools, dog parks, exercise rooms and Internet cafes among the amenities. Attuned to social responsibility, Bascom offers help with job assistance and financial aid through partnerships with local organizations to the residents of its properties. In addition, the majority of the group’s maintenance personnel are sought out and hired from a military veteran applicant pool. Though their expertise was earned in multifamily residential units, Kim and Fink are extending their vision to help commercial real estate consumers make better use of such properties, or what they term “creative adaptive reuse of space,” in addition to venture capital investments in other real estate operating companies. Bascom launched an executive suites business recently, and formed discretionary/high net worth funds to help other enterprises grow. During their 15 years in business together, Kim and Fink have aided the careers of more than 140 interns whom they groomed to become real estate professionals. Employees are offered equity stakes in the company’s real estate funds as well.