REITs@50: Reflections from Kenneth Campbell, the First Chronicler of REITs

If you're searching for information on REITs today, you simply need to open a web browser or turn on one of the many cable financial networks and you'll quickly find the information needed. In the early days of the REIT market, that was not the case.  

Even finding publications dedicated to the broader real estate market was difficult in the late 1960s and early 70s. In 1969, veteran journalist Kenneth Campbell already had a decade's worth of experience covering the real estate market as a writer and senior editor for House and Home magazine when he launched a magazine dedicated to housing investments.

"Housing companies, predominantly home builders, started coming public at that time," Campbell says, "I saw a ground swell there and thought that creating a magazine would fill a need."

At the time, Campbell thought that a publication dedicated to providing an investment advisory service for the home building business would offer tremendous longevity for his career. However, even as the first issue of that magazine went to print, Campbell began to see a growing demand for information on a new form of real estate investment that had just begun to get its legs: REITs.

"The REITs just came along and bubbled up," Campbell says. "There was a huge amount of offerings for mortgage REITs from 1969 to 1970. They consumed the space available in the broader housing publications."

Given how much investor interest REITs were generating, Campbell conceived of a new publication focused solely on REITs that he called Realty Trust Review. After the promotional issue was sent out March 18th, 1970, Campbell said they had more than 100 subscriptions within three days.

"Frankly that was enough to convince me that we had a winner and that there was a sustained interest in this market," Campbell says.

For the next 20 years, Campbell published Realty Trust Review each month as the industry grew and developed. From the dominance of the mortgage REITs and the aftermath of their collapse in the late '70s to the beginning of the Modern REIT Era, Campbell watched the industry mature.

In June 1990, Campbell sold the magazine and stepped away from the original REIT publication. While he no longer publishes Realty Trust Review, Campbell takes a great deal of pride that the publication has changed and adapted to modern times and exists currently as the daily email newsletter REITWrap published by Barry Vinocur.

Currently, Campbell serves as Managing Director for ING Clarion Real Estate Securities, having moved away from covering the market as a journalist. Campbell is still a huge advocate and fan of REITs as they become more popular both nationally and internationally.

"When we began our magazine, that was the beginning of the industry," says Campbell. "I still think it is a most interesting platform and still has a great future as an investment vehicle."