Wayne Ratkovich, a Los Angeles-based real estate developer who dedicated his career to improving the quality of urban life in his hometown, died on Sunday, Sept. 24 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 82 years old. The cause of death was complications from an aortic aneurysm.
Throughout his career, Ratkovich had an uncanny ability to identify opportunities that others overlooked. He often saw the future in a piece of the past, even if others ignored it. Ratkovich is credited with reimagining numerous landmark projects, including 18 historic buildings throughout the Los Angeles area, starting with his redevelopment of the James Oviatt Building in downtown Los Angeles.
Ratkovich is best known as founder and CEO of The Ratkovich Company (TRC), whose mission in its more than 40 years as a Los Angeles development firm has been “to profitably produce developments that improve the quality of urban life.”
In a 2015 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Ratkovich laid out his underlying philosophy on business and life. “We’d like to be an example of capitalism in its most admirable form,” he said. “We function in the private market, not with government subsidies, and we fulfill our mission to profitably produce developments that improve the quality of urban life. That allows us to do well and do good at the same time.”
In 2020, Ratkovich transitioned from his position leading TRC on a day-to-day basis, taking on the founder role. Longtime confidant and company executive Brian Saenger became president and CEO and leads TRC today.
“It is not an understatement to say that Wayne gave me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead the company he built. I could not ask for a better person to learn from,” said Saenger. “Wayne’s impact on Los Angeles is evident to anyone who looks at DTLA and many of the historic buildings across our region. His legacy of kindness, compassion, and vision will live on in the projects he built and the company he founded.”
In 2011, the Urban Land Institute named Ratkovich a Life Trustee, an honor given to just 15 members in the 80-year history of the 35,000-member organization. Ratkovich was formerly a member of the Urban Land Institute’s Global Board of Directors, as well as a Trustee Emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“Wayne Ratkovich was a true visionary in urban development, city building, and place making and exemplified everything that a real estate developer should be,” said Clare De Briere, Americas Chair and member of the Global Board of Directors of ULI. “His focus on creating places for people – thoughtful, beautiful, wondrous, peaceful, playful places – made everyday life better for everyone who experienced them. He not only embodied the values of the Urban Land Institute but drove those values over his half century of membership and leadership in the organization.”
Ratkovich received the Distinguished Businessperson Award from the USC Architectural Guild and the Design Advocate Develop Award from the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. In addition, Ratkovich was presented last year with the Rotary Club of Los Angeles’ Distinguished Citizen Award, recognizing an Angeleno who embodies Rotary’s motto of “service above self.”
He is survived by his wife JoAnn, son Milan and daughters Anna and Lindsay, and five grandchildren.
A private memorial service will be held in the near future.
Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces.
Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications.
Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).