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In Memoriam: Robert Charles Lesser

RCLCO Mourns and Honors the Legacy of our Founder

Robert Charles Lesser, for whom the company is named, founded RCLCO in 1967 and was a real estate pioneer and visionary. He passed away in Los Angeles on December 26th, 2021, at the age of 90.

Robert Charles Lesser Horizontal Black and White Headshot Photo

A native Los Angeleno, Robert (Bob) earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.  After building a thriving architecture practice, Bob ventured into real estate development in the 1960s, before founding Robert Charles Lesser & Co. (RCLCO) in 1967, the market research company that he led until his retirement in 1982, and that bears his name to this day.

“Bob’s optimism, empathy, encouragement, and love of life were always an inspiration to me. He was and still is a true legend.  He is the inspiration at the firm to this day.  He helped us set the True North for our professional careers – to create value for our clients.”

– Gadi Kaufmann, Chairman, RCLCO & RCLCO Fund Advisors

Bob became a true pioneer in bringing market research to real estate decision-making and built a company during his 25 years of leadership that serves as his enduring legacy.  It all started with a market feasibility study Bob completed for the Janss family, owners, and developers of what would later become Westlake Village Town Center in Southern California.  Bob was tasked with figuring out what the right mix of land uses would be before the land planning and architecture design began. He found that the creativity and financial imagination required for the study were extremely stimulating, and with that RCLCO was born. Read more about the history of RCLCO through an interactive timeline below.

“Bob brought for the first time disciplined and rigorous analysis to the real estate industry.  Rather than ‘shooting from the hip,’ developers and owners asked Bob and RCLCO ‘what does the market want and what should be built or acquired,’ knowing that the answer would be evidence-based”, said Chris Leinberger, who along with Gadi Kaufmann purchased RCLCO from Bob in 1981.  Leinberger went on to become a real estate developer, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and started two graduate real estate programs at the University of Michigan and George Washington University.

Photo of RCLCO Managing Directors and Bob Lesser

Left to right: Taylor Mammen, Bob Lesser, Charlie Hewlett, Gadi Kaufmann, Adam Ducker, Gregg Logan, and Len Bogorad

Friend and longtime RCLCO client Ron Terwilliger noted that “he was a truly visionary leader and a gentleman. He leaves behind a strong legacy.”  Reflecting on the impact Bob had on so many transformative projects around the United States, client Peter Rummell noted, “he gave me the courage to make northwest Florida happen.”

“Bob’s mind was so quick, so insightful; I’d be there with my calculator while he was doing the math in his head faster than I could sometimes keep up, and making insights and observations so quickly that I sometimes struggled to capture it all in my notes. I literally learned how to ‘see’ real estate from Bob.”

– Gregg Logan, Managing Director

Bob is survived by his loving wife of nearly 70 years, Johann (Green) Lesser, as well as his daughters Sheri Samotin and Susie Baker and his grandchildren Sacha (Laura), Noah, Matthew and Daniel. He is also survived by his younger brother Laurence and predeceased by his brother Joe and sister Leatrice.

Photo of completed Habitat for Humanity House

The RCLCO Foundation

Changing Lives Through Initiatives That Provide Affordable Homes

The RCLCO Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, was formed in 2006 as a means to positively influence the availability and development of affordable housing.

Funding to the RCLCO Foundation is provided by RCLCO, which annually contributes a share of its profits, along with contributions and grants provided by RCLCO team members, alumni, clients, and other organizations who are interested in advancing the cause of affordable housing.

In Memory Donations

Support Affordable Housing Development

In honor of Bob’s commitment and contribution to the company and the real estate community, RCLCO will make a contribution to The RCLCO Foundation. To make a donation in memory of Bob Lesser, friends and colleagues are welcome to join in giving at the link below.

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