Lee & Associates founder Bill Lee dies

CRE giant started the firm in California in 1979

Bill Lee (Lee & Associates/YouTube)
Bill Lee (Lee & Associates/YouTube)

Bill Lee, who founded the commercial real estate brokerage Lee & Associates, died on April 5 at the age of 78.

His eponymous firm confirmed the news via an obituary on its website. The cause of death was cancer.

Lee founded the firm in 1979 in Orange County, California, out of a 4,000-square-foot office. It’s since grown to have 65 locations throughout North America, with more than 1,300 employees. It also claims to be the largest broker-owned firm in the United States, with a profit-sharing model that “allow[s] agents the opportunity to maximize their deals in terms of commission dollars,” according to the firm.

It transacted approximately $14 billion worth of real estate in 2020.

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“I revisited all of the reasons I started the company, and I realized that I did it because the future was more valuable to me than the present,” said Lee, reflecting on his journey in a 2019 interview with Jeffrey Rinkov, the current CEO of Lee & Associates.

Lee retired from the company in 2008.

Born Oct. 22, 1942, in Santa Monica, California, Lee earned a physical education degree from Cal State Northridge before getting his start in real estate, according to the Orange County Register. He worked at the brokerage Grubb & Ellis for nine years, earning SIOR designation in 1977.

[The Orange County Register] — Orion Jones