Lee & Associates Founder Bill Lee Passes Away

The veteran executive established the national real estate services firm in 1979 and led it for three decades.
Bill Lee, Founder of Lee & Associates. Image courtesy of Lee & Associates

Bill Lee, the founder of commercial real estate brokerage Lee & Associates,  passed away earlier this week, after a long battle with cancer. The industry leader was 78 years old.

In 1979, Lee founded Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange County, Calif., based on values including shared responsibility and cooperation. Since then, the firm grew to its current 65 locations and more than 1,300 employees across North America. In 2020, Lee & Associates had a year-end consideration value of more than $14 billion.

Prior to establishing the company, Lee was introduced to the real estate industry by serving as a broker for Grubb & Ellis for nine years. Based on that experience, he decided to open his own business, with a focus on profit-sharing and collaboration. During his career, Lee represented some of the largest companies in the industry, earning the SIOR designation in 1977. 

After more than three decades of leading Lee & Associates, he retired in 2008. Outside of the office, he was a published author and basketball coach. In recent years, he ran a bed and breakfast in Los Osos, Calif., for which he supplied all fruits and vegetables he personally grew.

“I revisited all of the reasons I started the company, and I realized that I did it because the future was more valuable to me than the present,” noted Lee in a 2019 interview with current Lee & Associates CEO, Jeffrey Rinkov.