Jay Kislak, Versatile Executive, Dies at 96

The World War II naval aviator and longtime head of The Kislak Co. is remembered as a business innovator, civic leader and philanthropist.
Jay Kislak
Jay Kislak

Jay Kislak, a well-known Florida real estate mogul and philanthropist who was also an avid collector of historic artifacts, died October 3. He was 96 years old.

Kislak was born in Hoboken, N.J., and got his real estate license while still in high school at Newark Academy. He went on to earn a degree in economics from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated early to serve as a Naval aviator in World War II.

After returning home to New Jersey in 1945, Kislak joined his family’s real estate business full-time, and spent the rest of his career at the company. The Kislak Co. was founded in 1906 by Kislak’s father, Julius Kislak, and focuses on investment sales, commercial sales and commercial leasing in New Jersey, Florida and Pennsylvania. Until his death, Kislak served as chairman of the company.

In the early 1950’s, Kislak and his family moved to Miami, where he and his firm expanded into the mortgage business and established what would become one of the country’s largest privately-held mortgage banks, originating and servicing loans nationwide for more than four decades.

In 1970, the Kislak Co. merged its New Jersey and Miami operations and the company did business in a variety of real estate sectors, including multifamily and commercial real estate ownership, asset management and brokerage and tax lien certificate investment funds.

The Kislak Co. became active in acquiring multifamily and commercial properties around the country in 1999, with its most recent acquisition in January 2017, when the firm acquired a 208-unit luxury apartment community in Dallas.

More than real estate

Kislak was a serious collector of historical items, and through his foundation, the Jay I. Kislak Foundation, he and his wife Jean donated more than 3,000 items to the Library of Congress. The items included more than 2,300 books, maps, manuscripts and other historic artifacts that were valued at around $30 million.

Over the years, Kislak held leadership roles on numerous local, state and national organizations, including the U.S. Department of State Cultural Property Advisory Committee, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, University of Miami and Mount Sinai Medical Center, among others.

In 2012, Kislak celebrated his 90th birthday by hosting a gala with family, friends and longtime colleagues in his hometown at the W Hotel in Hoboken, N.J.

“He was a real estate pioneer in New Jersey, Florida and elsewhere and an innovative businessman, philanthropist, aviator, collector, history enthusiast, and patron of education and ideas,” said Jason Pucci, COO of The Kislak Co., in prepared remarks.

Image courtesy of The Kislak Co.