Wayne Hughes, founder of Public Storage and American Homes 4 Rent, Dies

Real estate mogul created single-family home and self-storage behemoths

B. Wayne Hughes Sr. (Getty)
B. Wayne Hughes Sr. (Getty)

B. Wayne Hughes Sr., who built Public Storage into an industry behemoth and repeated the feat four decades later in single-family rentals with American Homes 4 Rent, died Wednesday. He was 87.

The billionaire died at Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky, a legendary Thoroughbred breeding ranch that he bought in 2004, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Born in Oklahoma in 1933, Hughes moved West with his family during the Dust Bowl era, settling in El Monte and attending high school in nearby Alhambra. He won a scholarship to the University of Southern California, a debt he would repay in spades, becoming by the end of his life the largest donor in the university’s history, with more than $400 million in gifts. Rick Caruso, the retail real estate mogul and chair of the USC Board of Trustees, described Hughes to the Times as “an incredibly humble, generous, and loving man.”

Hughes started working in real estate in the L.A. area in the 1970s, and heard about the storage business through an associate who had come across a facility in Houston. Hughes founded Public Storage in 1972 and built it into the largest owner of self-storage facilities in the country.

“I saw a method of holding prime land with income,” Hughes told The Times in 1990.

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The company became a real estate investment trust in the mid-1990s. As of this spring, the company said it has an interest in over 2,500 facilities nationwide with a total portfolio of 175 million square feet. The REIT also owns over a third of European storage company Shurgard Storage Centers.

Hughes stepped down from Public Storage’s board in 2011 and a year later founded the single-family rental business American Homes 4 Rent.

American Homes 4 Rent thrived in the wake of the mortgage crisis and within a year amassed a portfolio of around 10,000 homes. It has since become one of the largest single-family rental firms in the country. Last year, JPMorgan Chase boosted its investment in the company to $625 million from $250 million.

Hughes’ equestrian activities were central later in life. Kentucky Derby winner Authentic came out of Spendthrift Farm, along with several other prize Thoroughbreds.

[LAT] — Dennis Lynch