Influential Industry Consultant, Accountant, Real Estate Educator and Former USC Lusk Center Chairman Stan Ross Dies at 82
Former E&Y Kenneth Leventhal Managing Director Became Successful as Real
Estate Restructuring Specialist Before Becoming USC Lusk Chairman
Stan Ross, former managing partner of E&Y Kenneth Leventhal Real Estate Group and chairman emeritus of the University of Southern California Lusk Center for Real Estate, died this
week from complications following a stroke. He was 82.
Ross is remembered as a real estate finance innovator and an advisor and mentor to numerous real estate investors and developers. He and his accounting business partner, Kenneth Leventhal, are credited as being among the first to introduce modern corporate finance and tax strategies to the real estate business. Together, they built Kenneth Leventhal & Company into one of the nation’s preeminent real estate accounting firms.
After expanding through the 1970s in southern California, the firm carved out a successful national practice during a real estate downturn in the late 1980s and early 1990s, specializing in restructuring assets for troubled savings and loans taken over by the Resolution Trust Corp.
According to a 1990 profile in The Washington Post, Leventhal & Co.'s expertise in negotiating 'work outs,' essentially loan forgiveness arrangements between real estate firms and their
lenders, led the firm to become a prime beneficiary of the slump in real estate values then spreading throughout the country.
One of those who hired the firm to negotiate with his lenders was an over-leveraged real estate developer in New York named Donald Trump.
According to the Post's profile: "Since the accounting firm first got Trump's call for help six weeks ago, a team of experts in Leventhal's New York office has been working around the
clock, meeting with Trump's lenders and trying to convince them that their client is worth more outside of bankruptcy court than in it."
Leventhal, after flying to New York to start the talks with Trump's lenders, left to go bicycling in Europe, according to the Post's report, leaving his heir-apparent, Stan Ross, 55, and John
Robbins, managing partner of the New York office, to negotiate in the marathon talks with Trump's lenders.
That engagement, along with numerous others, eventually led to a 1995 merger with Ernest & Young. Ross became vice chairman of real estate industry services at Ernst & Young LLP, served on the firm’s management committee and retired as vice chairman of Real Estate Industry Services for Ernst & Young LLP.
In a highly successful 'second act,' Ross served as chairman of the University of Southern California Lusk Center for Real Estate for 18 years, helping to establish the university as one of the premier training grounds for real estate development and finance.
Richard Green, the current director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, said Ross chaired USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate for the first nine years he was the director. It was a role, Green said Ross did not see as simply being ceremonial, but one he took very seriously.
"I think he’s one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever known, and I would say, beyond the fact he was important to the Lusk Center, he was one of the most influential people I’ve known in my own life, personally," said Green. "He just made me rethink things. He showed me how to live life well. He showed me how to behave. He was a role model."
Ross was born in 1936 in the Bronx. According to his obituary, Ross said he learned an important lesson growing up in the streets: "When you walk down an alley, something bad might happen. Therefore you should identify at least two or three exits before you walk down it."
He said he applied the same strategy to real estate investing, advising clients to come up with a similar number of exit strategies in sizing up a property before investing. "Can I finance it? Can I refinance it? Could I exchange it? Could I sell it? Know [your] options up front."
Ross graduated from what is now known as Baruch College, where the Stan Ross Department of Accountancy at the School of Business is named in his honor. He was also the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Baruch nearly 20 years ago. Ross served in the U.S. Army before moving to Los Angeles in 1961, where he joined up with Leventhal.
A 2004 inductee into the California Building Industry Foundation’s Hall of Fame, Ross served on numerous boards, including Forest City Enterprises and the American Jewish University, and was senior advisor to Newport Beach-based Irvine Company.
Donald Bren, chairman of the Irvine Company, said Ross was also a longtime friend.
"Stan is remembered as one of the nation’s leading experts on finance and real estate," Bren said via email. "More importantly, he was a great friend, colleague and longtime adviser to the Irvine Co. His imprint on our company will be there for decades to come."
Ross and his wife, Marilyn, also established the USC Ross Minority Program in Real Estate. He was a leader in every sense of the word, according to Clare DeBriere, former chief officer of the Ratkovich Company, founder of C+C Ventures and chair of Urban Land Institute Los Angeles.
"He was certainly a leader in his field, changing the way that real estate is accounted for and financed forever," DeBriere said via email. "He loved cities and more importantly, he loved the people who lived in them. On a personal level, he told it like it was, and always had a kind word, a moment to spare and a big smile. He will be sorely missed."
The original article can be found here.