The beautiful career of Léon Backes



Leon Backes (pronounced BACK-us) has the kind of career in real estate that would make a great movie. Imagine the oldest in a family of nine from a small town in Missouri traveling to Dallas in the late 1980s in a Panama Brown Volkswagen Rabbit with no air conditioning. Did I tell you it was summer?

“It must have been the start of global warming because we had 45 consecutive days of 100 degree weather,” he recalls. “It was so hot that I started running shorts and running shoes, and about every 30-45 minutes I was pulling off the freeway to take Gatorade. “

Backes had just completed a training program with Coldwell Banker (now CBRE) in Houston and moved to North Texas without the kind of relationships that would open doors for him. Instead, he came up with a clean slate and did it the hard way, an example of the entrepreneurial spirit that prevails in the region’s business community.

Forty years later, Backes still remembers the excitement he felt when he came to Dallas to break into commercial real estate. “I was going to come here and make my mark,” he said.

Backes and real estate and oil visionary Ray Hunt were recently inducted in 2021 into the North Texas Commercial Real Estate (NTCAR) Hall of Fame. Together, the duo have completed billions of projects.

Established in 1987 as a vehicle to boost the morale of members who were in what was considered a severe period of depression, the NTCAR Hall of Fame has hosted a long list of inductees, ranging from the late Trammell Crow to the late Gerald Hines. in 2020.


How it all began
The program was the vision of real estate veterans Robert Grunnah, Darrell Hurmis and Chris Teesdale, and has become an integral part of the local commercial real estate industry. It is also the only program in the United States that recognizes the pillars of the industry.

In its 34th year, the case brought together an impressive group of North Texas business leaders, including Roger Staubach, Trevor Rees-Jones, Ka Cotter, Mike Berry and Jack Matthews, to name a few. -a.

Hosted at the Dallas Country Club, the evening also honored change agent Diane Butler, co-founder and former executive president and CEO of Butler Burgher Group, with the Michael F. McAuley Lifetime Achievement Award, named after her first recipient. Butler was the first woman to receive this prestigious honor, which was first unveiled in 2006. She wrote on LinkedIn that it was “the honor of my life to be included in this project with Ray Hunt. I’m sure Leon would agree !!

When Leon Backes built his house three years ago, an art studio was a must. The piece contains a custom easel nearly 10 feet high. Photography by Jill Broussard

A LIFE OF CREATIVITY

If you saw Backes at home, having dinner with his family, he would probably be scratching up an idea for a new project with a sharpie and some paper.

An artist, he lives for the creative side of the business. As event co-chair Lynn Dowdle put it beautifully, “At the easel he paints in oils and compares his art to real estate, saying ‘the two are working together you have to come up with ideas for buildings, so they look great ”. Both have a keen eye and vision, a determination to execute, and one could imagine a tremendous sense of accomplishment when the artwork is completed.

Those who know Backes call him a Renaissance man, determined to succeed, a little late all the time, and full of big ideas. He grew up working at his father’s gas station, enrolled in college, gives back to those in need, and is a great problem solver, a skill he developed very early in his life. His son shared one of his father’s ‘crazy’ stories at the event about a young Backes who, as the oldest of nine children, wanted his own bedroom and built one as an attachment. at his parents’ house. He is always there.

“Leon’s track record of success and commercial real estate speaks for itself,” real estate attorney Kevin Cherry said as he introduced Backes at the event. “What sets Leon apart? According to my experience? The answer is, people love to work with him. He has an amazing nose for a deal. Having worked with him for almost 20 years, I would put it this way: People love working with Leon because if Leon says he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it. It’s that simple. “

This innovation and confident attitude paid off in his career in commercial real estate.

Preston Hollow Village

Preston Hollow Village is a 42-acre mixed-use development located at Walnut Hill and US 75 in Dallas, the mainstay of which is Trader Joe’s.

Real estate provident

The idea man

Backes is the type of real estate pro who will take a deal 100 others would make because he sees the big picture. This was evident early in his career when the real estate industry was terrible in North Texas, but Leon used his “Midas touch” to stay as busy as possible.

He started Provident Realty in 1991, after working for 12 years at other companies, initially focusing on the opportunistic acquisition of real estate assets from failing financial institutions. In the early 1990s, Backes acquired a land portfolio of more than 85 lots and other assets at the bottom of the market.

When those opportunities ended, Provident broadened his interests beyond the land to focus on other projects with the potential for risk-adjusted and above-market returns, according to his bio. Following this model, Backes has formed and led partnerships to invest or develop real estate with a market value over $ 3 billion.

Today his company is involved in land acquisition and development, acquisition, development, rental and management, as well as construction of retail, office, apartment projects. and self-storage. Its portfolio includes Preston Hollow Village and Midtown Park in North Dallas and the new Twin Creeks Crossing mixed-use development in Allen.

Provident has developed or acquired more than $ 500 million in commercial developments, more than 30 self-storage projects, 1.5 million square feet of office space, more than 15,000 apartment units, several thousand residential lots , and currently manages a portfolio of over 8,000 acres of land (including active development projects).

Additionally, Backes is an opportunistic buyer of distressed notes on real estate and other assets and owns significant oil and gas stakes and controlling stakes in an institutional pharmacy, commercial lighting distributor and several theaters. autonomous emergencies.

Joined at the event by his parents, Bill and Nancy Backes, and his immediate family, Backes noted that he accepted the award with great gratitude.

“I think of others who have received this award before me; As most of you know, the Dallas area has produced many great real estate leaders, not just here, but nationwide. These are the men and women who built great companies and changed the skyline of many American cities, ”he said. “To think that I could be considered in their company is really a lesson in humility.”

Key career moments

“When I look back over the past 40 years in this industry, a lot of it becomes blurry,” Backes continued. “But there are still a few pivotal moments where I can still remember every detail. One of those moments was when I was still at university in Mizzou. I had taken a few real estate courses. optional; this was one of those filler classes I thought I could do an easy B in.

“One day towards the end of the semester, there was a career day. A young Kansas City real estate developer spoke to the class and within an hour he explained how he had developed a Kroger anchored mall. And I was like, ‘Wow, no one has ever told me how it’s done before. This is amazing. I can do it. It’s much better than selling farm chemicals, or farm equipment, or whatever else I can do on my way out of Mizzou.

“So from that day forward, my sole goal was to get into the commercial real estate business and be successful. I’m grateful to this young developer – can’t remember his name – and that my alarm clock actually went off that morning and I didn’t turn it off and then turned around and went back to bed. I introduced myself and went to this course, and it has changed my whole life.


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