Art von Thaden, who was an early leader in the REIT industry and a longtime, active participant in NAREIT, has died at the age of 83.

According to an announcement from Essex Property Trust, Inc. (NYSE: ESS), which acquired BRE Properties in 2014, von Thaden died of complications from pneumonia on Jan. 14.

Von Thaden helped start BankAmerica Realty Services Inc. in 1970, and the company became BRE Properties in 1987. He served as president and CEO of the firm through 1996. In 2002, he retired from his position as chairman of the apartment REIT.

In 1994, NAREIT honored von Thaden with the REIT Industry Leadership Award for his work in service of the industry.

Von Thaden was born in Washington, D.C., in 1932 and graduated from Trinity College in 1954 with a degree in economics. After graduating, he served in the U.S. Air Force before starting his professional career with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York.

In a 2011 interview with REIT.com, von Thaden offered his reflections on the growth of the REIT industry, especially the proliferation of REITs and collapse of a number of firms in the 1960s and 1970s. He noted that the period was vital to the maturation of the industry.

"Those who witnessed the collapse during the '70s saw the lack of strong leadership and professionalism and realized they needed to change the industry," he said.

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