By JOHN REID BLACKWELL Richmond Times-Dispatch 14 hrs ago
When John P. Mccann joined the forerunner of United Dominion Realty Trust in 1974, he was one of two officers for the first apartment real estate investment trust in the country, a fledgling company with four properties in Virginia.
When he retired as the company's CEO in 2001, the company had grown to become a national business that owned more than $3 billion worth of apartments and had 2,500 employees. That year, the REIT was named the eighth-largest U.S. apartment owner and fifth-largest U.S. apartment manager, with about 78,000 units in 290 communities around the country.
Mr. Mccann, described by colleagues as an "innovator" and "icon" in the real estate investment trust industry, died Monday at his home in Richmond. He was 73.
"He left a great legacy in our industry," said Matthew T. Akin, who worked with Mr. Mccann at Richmond-based United Dominion Realty, which is now UDR Inc. with headquarters in Colorado. Later, Akin succeeded him as president of Henrico County-based Mccann Realty Partners in 2013.
"He was extremely intelligent, and he was very driven," Akin said. "It is tremendous what he built and how he built it from scratch."
Mr. Mccann began as managing officer of United Dominion Realty, which included such duties as accounting and investor relations. He rose within the company as it evolved and grew in the 1980s and 1990s through mergers and acquisitions and becoming publicly traded in 1985.
"I touched a lot of good people along the way," Mr. Mccann said in a 2001 interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "I paid attention to what other people were doing and said, 'Can we do that?' I'm a real believer that you can learn from others."
Mr. Mccann also was a longtime member of the board of directors of the National Multi-Housing Council, a trade association of large apartment owners, and a member of the Urban Land Institute.
He retired as chairman and CEO of United Dominion Realty in 2001 but remained on the board of directors until 2004. He then partnered with Fleet Wallace and Brand Inlow to found Mccann Realty Partners, a company that acquires, develops and manages apartment communities throughout the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Texas.
"The short answer is he was not the retiring type," Wallace said of Mr. McCann's decision to start another company. "He had a passion for the apartment business. He was very good at it. Fortunately, we were able to team up and spend 10 years working side by side.
"He had a keen business sense for the fundamentals of the apartment industry. There was a lot going on beneath the surface, but he was very even-keeled and treated everyone with respect. I think anyone would say he was the consummate gentleman."
Mr. McCann's work ethic, along with his sense of humility, may have been a product of his blue-collar upbringing in Youngstown, Ohio, and his service as a Marine Corps rifle platoon commander during the Vietnam War, his colleagues said. Mr. Mccann rarely spoke about his military service, they said.
"All he would say to us was he was fortunate to go through that and make it through OK, because a lot of other guys were not as lucky," Akin said.
He graduated from Notre Dame University in 1966 and received his MBA from New York University in 1968.
When he started with United Dominion Realty Trust in 1974, the REIT industry may have had an equity cap of around $1 billion, and today it is more like $1 trillion, said Tom Toomey, UDR's chairman and CEO.
''.lohn was one of those people who helped an industry get off the ground and helped it grow," Toomey said.
"It was not just about building a company," he said. "He built a lot of people. John was always good about identifying talent and developing talent, and that talent then went through the industry."
Mr. Mccann also was known for his civic and philanthropic work, including improving access to affordable housing. He served on the board and was past chairman of the Better Housing Coalition, a nonprofit affordable housing developer in the Richmond area.
"John contributed greatly to our RVA community at many levels and was instrumental in making BHC stronger and ready for the challenges of making positive community change," said Greta J. Harris, president and CEO of the Better Housing Coalition.
"His passion for both our corporate sustainability as well as advancing our mission was palpable," she said. "Although he loved real estate and he was a giant in that industry, his inspiration was in helping organizations like BHC to create great places to call home so that residents could thrive."
He also served for eight years on the board of the Virginia Housing Development Authority, including as chairman.
"John contributed immensely to the success of VHDA through his extensive knowledge and many years of experience in the housing industry and his deep passion for affordable housing," said VHDA Executive Director Susan Dewey. "He consistently challenged VHDA to find new ways to be innovative and efficient in the funding and administration of its programs. VHDA will greatly miss his advocacy of its mission but will most certainly continue to benefit in the future from John's strong leadership."
Survivors include his wife of 47 years, Rebecca Lee Mccann; two daughters, Stephanie Mccann Sullivan and Shannon Bess Mccann; a son, John Patrick Mccann II; a sister, Barbara Mccann Lehnerd; seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Mary's Catholic Church, 9505 Gayton Road. Burial at Greenwood Cemetery will be private.
John Reid Blackwell