After 64 years at the helm of one of Boston’s most successful real estate empires, Harold Brown is stepping down as Chairman of The Hamilton Company.
Brown, who purchased his first property at 1292 Commonwealth Ave. for $20,000 in 1954, has amassed more than $2.3 billion in residential and commercial real estate, primarily geared to working-class families, students and medical professionals. His company now provides a full-range of development, acquisition and construction services, property and asset management, and financial and investment management.
Known for his quick wit and no-nonsense approach, Brown, 93, said: “It’s time. Our company is in great shape. We have great people in place. And I’m always around to help out.”
Brown, who will retain the title of chairman emeritus, has named Guilliaem Aertsen, a longtime business associate and trusted adviser, to succeed him as Chairman.
Chief Operating Officer Jameson Brown, Harold’s son, and Chief Financial Officer Andy Bloch will now serve as co-chief executive officers. Together, Jameson Brown and Andy Bloch bring over 42 years of experience working for Hamilton in property management, acquisitions and new development, finance, internal controls and risk management.
Brian Golden, director of the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), called Brown “a real gentleman, active philanthropist and a pleasure to work with.”
Golden went on to thank Brown for “the important role he has played in the life of this City.”
“Harold Brown has provided housing for thousands of Bostonians – at a wide range of incomes – for decades, and he’s continued to address the needs of our diverse population during a period of tremendous growth,” said Golden. “As development regulator for the City of Boston, I have been involved in tough negotiations with Harold, but I am always grateful for his constructive, respectful focus on getting results that benefit the greater good.”
In all, The Hamilton Company owns 5,600 units of multi-family housing and 1.3 million square feet of commercial space, one-third of which is held in the publicly traded New England Realty Associates Limited Partnership and two-thirds in privately-held limited liability companies. Brown has 100 percent voting control of The Hamilton Company, majority voting control of New England Realty Associates and is co-managing partner with Aertsen of the private limited liability companies.
Brown is a U.S. Navy veteran of both World War II and the Korean Conflict, where he was in charge of public relations for the Far Eastern Forces from 1951-1952. An MIT graduate in metallurgical engineering, Brown will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New England Real Estate Journal in December.
As chairman emeritus, Brown is turning the day-to-day responsibilities of running The Hamilton Company to four of his most trusted Hamilton colleagues:
Aertsen, 70, who met Brown in the late 1980s when Aertsen was head of the BankBoston Real Estate Department, will serve as the new chairman of The Hamilton Company’s board of directors.
Over the years, Brown became a master at acquiring and developing what is now referred to as “rent by necessity” (RBN) or moderate-income housing, catering to working families, students and neighborhood businesses. Brown’s properties benefit from the region’s vast number of colleges and universities, teaching hospitals, start-ups and global companies.
Brown’s rental units and commercial space are priced for value; most rents fall somewhere in between the subsidized and luxury markets. Brown can offer these moderate rates because his initial investment is far lower that what it would cost to buy these properties today.
As the new chairman of The Hamilton Company, Aertsen said he believes Hamilton will continue to thrive with the team of Jameson Brown and Andy Bloch running the company as co-CEOs and Steve Weinig managing construction, noting that the formula for growth they inherited from Harold Brown has served the company very well.