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National   /   April 6, 2021

Lisa Brown
By: Lisa Brown

Lee & Associates Founder Bill Lee Passes Away

Lee & Associates' company founder, Bill Lee, passed away after a long battle with cancer and cancer-related complications Monday night. He was 78 years old.

Lee founded Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in 1979 in Orange County. The company now has 65 locations across North America and employs more than 1,300 people with a year-end consideration value of more than $14 billion in 2020.

“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 in a 2019 interview with current Lee & Associates CEO Jeffrey Rinkov.

Lee set up the Lee & Associates model in a way that has perpetuated the company's growth: each office has a vested interest in the other offices. One of the key elements is that agents at Lee & Associates have the ability to make an investment in the growth of the company. Culturally speaking, the way the offices are tied together with the co-investment element has cultivated a legacy of collaboration that still permeates the organization today.

He strategically designed capital at Lee & Associates to operate in smaller components to allow company capital to operate more efficiently than other existing methods at the time. This also allowed agents the ability to maximize deals in terms of commission dollars.

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of our visionary founder, friend and long-time leader. On this difficult day, I stand in tremendous appreciation with the thousands of real estate professionals and their families that have been so positively impacted by the company Bill created and the unique structure that has served us for 41-plus years. Bill fostered and maintained incredibly close personal and business relationships with Lee & Associates professionals, including his abundant support in our efforts to continue the growth of our company in his entrepreneurial vision. Bill’s passing will be felt throughout Lee & Associates and the greater commercial real estate industry. On behalf of all of our team members, I extend my deepest condolences to Bill’s family and friends,” said Rinkov.

Outside of his commercial real estate career, Lee was a published author, coached youth basketball and enjoyed spending time with his family. Lee is survived by his four children, Robb, John, Ryan and Katie, and nine grandchildren.

Recently, Lee became an avid gardener who grew all of his own fruits and vegetables for a restaurant and inn he owned.

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Lisa Brown has more than 30 years of experience in corporate communications and marketing management with organizations including Grubb & Ellis, Marcus & Millichap and NAIOP.
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