Real estate entrepreneur and alumnus to be honored


If you've ever had a 3 a.m. idea that was going to change the world and make you successful in the process, then you've had the heady experience of thinking like an entrepreneur. While most of us don't act on our ideas, a few people do. One such risk-taker is William Sanders, who is being honored Thursday, April 15, as Cornell's 1999 Entrepreneur of the Year for his accomplishments. Sanders also will deliver the Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year address Friday, April 16, at 2:30 p.m. in Sage Hall, Room B-08.

Sanders was savvy enough to capitalize on a unique opportunity in the real estate business 31 years ago -- and just as savvy when he began an entirely different kind of real estate company in 1991. Both companies prospered far beyond initial expectations.

"I saw there was a better way to do things that no one else was doing," Sanders said. "I was lucky and in the right place at the right time."

Newly retired from LaSalle Partners, a company he founded in 1968 that had become the second largest property manager in the United States, Sanders decided in 1990 to start another business, a real estate venture capital company called Security Capital. Undaunted by the real estate slump, he and his associates acquired four struggling real estate investment trusts -- or REITs. By 1996 they were jointly ranked the fourth-largest REIT in the United States, and in 1997 the company went public.

The Sanders trademark? A unique capital structure, summarized in the Wall Street Journal as follows: "The company [Security Capital] has deployed capital through an ever-changing matrix of companies unlike anything seen before in the industry."

Sanders, who graduated from Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1964, has this advice for would-be entrepreneurs: "Think strategically. Bill Gates did, while everyone else was thinking only about tomorrow or the next quarter."

Sanders' real estate success will be celebrated at a dinner hosted by Cornell President Hunter Rawlings on Thursday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Carrier Ballroom of the Statler Hotel. The Entrepreneur of the Year award recognizes the achievements and qualities of a Cornellian who best exemplifies the ideals of entrepreneurship. It was established in 1984 by Cornell and the Johnson Graduate School of Management and is now managed by the university's Entrepreneurship and Personal Enterprise Program (EPE).

Past award winners include Sanford I. Weill, the Travelers Group (now merged with Citibank to become Citigroup); David Duffield, PeopleSoft Corp.; and Linda Mason, Bright Horizons Inc. Recipients are selected by a committee of Cornell deans, faculty, students and alumni.

The award presentation launches Celebration '99, a two-day gathering on Cornell's campus of leaders and advisers of EPE. Founded in 1992 as a combined initiative of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Johnson Graduate School of Management, EPE is governed by the deans of eight participating Cornell schools and colleges.