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Dr. Peter Linneman | Founding Chairman of Wharton’s Real Estate Department


The late 1980s saw massive changes in the real estate industry. The passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and then the S&L crisis that followed transitioned the industry into a modern, institutional business. During this time, Dr. Peter Linneman had just started reworking the real estate program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Dr. Linneman was an outsider economist who saw the obvious future in information, transparency, and capital flows. This week’s conversation dives into Dr. Linneman’s experience, from his perch at Wharton where he learned from and then counseled the then giants in the industry on this transformation as well as trained the future generation of leaders in the business.

Dr. Linneman’s story begins in Lima, OH, which at the time was a booming industrial city. He supported himself starting at a young age to attend private high school and went on to obtain his masters and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago. During his studies, he was trained by prominent economists including Nobel Prize winners Milton Friedman, Gary Becker, George Stigler, Ted Schultz and Jim Heckman. As an economist by trade, he started his career in general economics and industrial organization, which at the time was mostly manufacturing. Soon after, he pivoted to commercial real estate.

The Dean the University of Pennsylvania approached Dr. Linneman and asked him to evaluate the real estate curriculum in their business program. Following his research, he developed and designed Wharton’s renowned real estate program and subsequently served as the founding chairman of the department and the Director of Wharton’s Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center for 13 years. Quite literally, Dr. Linneman wrote the textbook for collegiate real estate programs.

Beyond his time in academia, Dr. Linneman has had a tenured career as a Founding Principal of Linneman Associates, a leading real estate advisory firm; CEO of American Land Fund; and CEO of KL Realty. He’s also advised leading corporations and served on over 20 public and private boards, including serving as Chairman of Rockefeller Center Properties, where he led the successful restructuring and sale of Rockefeller Center in the mid-1990s.

While Dr. Linneman is now retired from Wharton’s faculty, he and his wife Kathy support a program, Save A Mind, Give A Choice, which commits to educating young children of extreme poverty in rural Kenya. Dr. Linneman contributions to the academic study of the field has been instrumental in training the leaders of the real estate industry today and subsequent educational programs in real estate fields.

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