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Friday, Sep 29, 2023


Jerry L. Katell

Katell Properties

Age: 56

Specialty: Commercial and residential development

Recent Deal: Buying the Warner Ridge property in Woodland Hills, which is currently in escrow.

It was a friend of John F. Kennedy who got Jerry Katell interested in real estate.

Katell, the developer who hopes to succeed where others have failed in developing the Warner Ridge project, was bitten by the real estate bug when he was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

New York developer and Kennedy adviser Charles Abrams flew each week to M.I.T., where Katell was a civil engineering student, to teach a class in real estate economics. The class convinced Katell that he wanted a career in real estate.

He also wanted it to be on the West Coast.

“Somehow I decided I was born on the wrong coast and needed to be out here. I’m not sure how that came about because I had never been west of New Jersey until that point,” Katell said.

After finishing M.I.T. with a B.S. in civil engineering, Katell was accepted at Harvard Business School but chose Stanford for his MBA because “I thought that would improve my chances of ending up in the West.”

Katell, who would eventually team with Ray Watt to develop several hundred million dollars worth of L.A.-area properties, landed his first real estate job in 1964 with a Castle & Cooke Inc. subsidiary in Honolulu. He was in charge of financial analysis for proposed new towns, medical buildings and a variety other projects.

Katell left Watt in 1984 to form Katell Properties, which is known for developing such suburban office parks as the Agoura Hills Business Park and Valencia Technology Park, but the two still work on some projects together, including a new housing development in Malibu.

Katell said his education and experience help him to analyze the financial facets of development, but there is a big difference between being a developer and being a staff person.

“You have to be willing to take risks,” he said. “I’m taking a lot of risks on Warner Ridge, as I have all along in my career. To be an analytical MBA is one thing, but to go out and be a developer on your own is a whole different story.”

Bob Howard

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