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DALE ANNE REISS ON LUCK, OPPORTUNITY, AND THE JOY OF REAL ESTATE



ON THE WALL above Dale Anne Reiss’s desk is a sheet of paper bearing a short homily. “Luck,” it reads, “is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

You’ll find no stronger adherent to that philosophy than Reiss, ’70. Back when she was at the GSB in the late 1960s, she had no plans to enter real estate. That she did, she says today, was nothing less than serendipitous.

But luck alone can’t account for what Reiss has accomplished since. She’s parlayed tenacity, technical and people skills, an ability to learn quickly, and, yes, unending preparation to become managing partner, midwest area with E & Y Kenneth Leventhal in Chicago.

The firm engages in all aspects of real estate accounting, real estate auditing, tax consulting and compliance, and acquisition due diligence for real estate clients, many of whom are real estate investment trusts. They also advise corporations on their real estate holdings and on commercial mortgage-backed securities. “I do all the above, as well as run the practice, which employs about 200 people,” Reiss says.

A confluence of trends in the real estate industry has made this an exciting time in real estate accounting and consulting, she adds. One major trend is the consolidation and securitization occurring in the industry. Once driven by local entrepreneurs and financed by local savings and loans, the real estate business is now dominated by firms going public, consolidating, and adopting the highest professional management standards.

A concurrent trend is the ongoing reengineering of corporate America. Firms are eager to show shareholder value on every line item on their balance sheets, including the traditionally underutilized and underappreciated item reading “property, plant and equipment.”
Add to the mix a period of low and steady interest rates and a robust stock market, Reiss notes, and you have a real estate environment unparalleled in recent history. And if anyone has the well-rounded background to shepherd clients through this period of swift and wholesale change, it’s likely to be Reiss.

She worked her way through the GSB while employed as a First Chicago accountant and later as assistant controller for the Chicago City Colleges. After graduation, she became director of finance with Chicago’s Department of Public Works. After a seven and one-half years as a consultant with public accounting firm Arthur Young, Reiss joined Urban Investment and Development Company as vice president and controller in 1980. “The company owned shopping centers, office buildings, hotels, home builders,” she recalls. “I learned every aspect of the real estate business. When Urban was sold to JMB Realty, I ended up opening the Chicago office of [Los Angeles-based] Kenneth Leventhal.”

Along the way, she adds, she’s learned the importance of tenacity, follow-through, adaptability, and organizational and technical skills. Then, too, there’s the element of luck, she says, pointing to the philosophy posted near her desk.

“You have to be ready to take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself,” she notes.

Reiss isn’t one to predict her professional future, except to say that she doesn’t “envision retirement.” For now, she’s simply enjoying the swift pace of change in real estate, and the challenges and excitement it offers.

“Anytime there’s change,” she says, “there’s fun.”

–Jeffrey Steele


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