Ron will be in attendance for the Memorial in Los Angeles this weekend.

Photo compilation assembled by: Dick Enersen

John Kilroy Sr., commercial real estate pioneer and champion sailor, dies at 94

by James F Peltz
John Kilroy Senior sailing
LA Times logo

John B. Kilroy Sr., who rose from a Depression-era childhood to establish Kilroy Realty Corp. as one of the leading commercial real estate firms on the West Coast, has died at age 94, his foundation announced.

Kilroy, who also was a renowned sailor, died Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from complications of aging, said Chris Krogh, a spokesman for the John B. and Nelly Llanos Kilroy Foundation.

Known as Jim, Kilroy was among the developers who tapped into the growth of Southern California’s commercial real estate market, especially in the aerospace and defense industries, after World War II.

Kilroy started in real estate in 1947 – with only $100 in his pocket, according to the company – and founded Kilroy Realty’s predecessor firm in 1952.

“His vision was that he was going to build multiple buildings near major airports” so that the region’s growing number of corporate employees could travel more easily as the jet age took hold, said John Cushman, former chairman of Cushman & Wakefield, another major commercial real estate firm. “It was a brilliant strategy.”

For example, there are Kilroy Airport Center office parks next to Los Angeles International Airport and Long Beach Airport.

In more recent decades, as the aerospace and defines industries waned in Southern California, his firm expanded into other office and multi-use commercial properties.

Kilroy Realty today has dozens of properties in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties and in the San Francisco Bay Area and greater Seattle that encompass a combined 13.7 million square feet.

Kilroy Realty’s properties include the mixed-use Columbia Square, Sunset Media Center and the Academy projects in Hollywood. Its other properties include multiple office parks in Del Mar, and it is building the Exchange on 16th office complex in San Francisco.

The company’s shares are listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Kilroy Realty has a market value of more than $6 billion.

Kilroy turned over daily management of the company to his son, John Kilroy Jr., in 1981 and the elder Kilroy retired as chairman in 2013. His son remains the firm’s chairman and chief executive.

“His son has built the company into a huge operation,” Cushman said.

John Kilroy Sr. also was an avid sailor and former yachting champion in the mid-1970s, known for his series of Kialoa vessels that he sailed around the world.

He was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame, receiving its first lifetime achievement award, in 2014.

The sailing website on Friday called Kilroy “one of the true titans of competitive sailing” and recalled that Kilroy enjoyed sailing partly due to his fascination with the science behind the endeavor, including fluid dynamics, aerodynamics and hydrodynamics.

Kilroy detailed his passion for sailing and his business career in a 2012 autobiography, “Kialoa US-1: Dare to Win.”

“He was a true mentor and visionary and will be greatly missed,” Jack Gierhart, executive director of the U.S. Sailing Assn., the sport’s governing body, said in a statement.

Kilroy was born May 1, 1922, in the village of Ruby, Alaska, to a struggling gold rush prospector. The future real estate magnate later moved to Southern California, where he held numerous odd jobs during the Depression.

He sold magazine subscriptions, mowed lawns and hauled trash to make ends meet, then worked for Douglas Aircraft and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II before launching his real estate career.

Kilroy is survived by his wife, Nelly; children John, Sue, Anne, Trice and Dana; his stepchildren Bea, Michele, Mike, Rick and Cece; 17 grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren.