REITs@50: Bill Newman Continues to Advocate for REITs

Bill Newman served as NAREIT chair from 1990 to 1992, overseeing what many consider to be the birth of the Modern REIT ERA. Yet, for all the excitement during his tenure at NAREIT, Newman believes that his greatest accomplishment during his tenure was improving the level of understanding about REITs.

"We did a good job in educating the public," Newman says. "REITs up until that time were a pretty dirty word. We raised the level of discussion and understanding and changed that image through NAREIT's efforts."

By providing a central location where REIT leaders and managers could exchange information and find help in solving individual and industry problems, Newman said that NAREIT has always fulfilled its role in the industry.

Newman founded New Plan Excel Realty Trust, Inc., which was incorporated in 1961 as New Plan Realty Corporation. As one of the first leaders in the REIT industry, Newman oversaw New Plan's growth and reorganization into a REIT in 1971. Under Newman's stewardship, New Plan achieved many firsts for the REIT industry. They were one of the first REIT to reach $1 billion in market capital and the first REIT listed on the S&P 500.

"We really opened the floodgates for the rest of the REIT industry," Newman says. "Up until we were listed on the S&P 500, there was no corporate borrowing by real estate entities. Our listing really changed things."

Along with opening the door for REITs to corporate borrowing, Newman said that New Plan's listing on the S&P showed that the platform was a suitable vehicle for institutional investors.

"At the time, we had 80 quarters of increased dividend as a track record," Newman says. "It had an extremely positive effect on the industry."

In 2007, New Plan was acquired by the Melbourne, Australia-based Centro Properties Group for a reported $6.2 billion. Even though he sold New Plan and isn't at the forefront of the industry as he once was, Newman still keeps involved in the REIT industry as an advocate for the investment vehicle.

"REITs should always be a part of someone's portfolio," Newman says. "REITs solve the problems of owning commercial real estate for the individual buyer. They provide the management, the liquidity and the diversification that small investors can't obtain on their own."