Thomas H. Nielsen.
January 25, 2016 — As chairman and past chairman, respectively, of the U.C. Irvine Founation, Emile K. Haddad and Thomas H. Nielsen participated in a videotaped oral history project conducted by the UCI Libraries.
(The video appears here by permission of Thomas Nielsen.)
Haddad, of Laguna Hills, is chairman and CEO of FivePoint, developer of major mixed-use projects in California. As of 2016-2017, those projects include the planned 21,000-home Newhall Ranch project in the Santa Clarita Valley; the Great Park Neighborhoods redevelopment project at the closed El Toro Marine Base in Irvine; and a revitalized waterfront neighborhood at the San Francisco Shipyard.
Nielsen, of Newport Beach, is past president of California Land Co., the Newhall Land affiliate that developed Valencia. He went on to serve as an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Air Force in the Johnson administration,
then returned to California and became president of The Irvine Co. He continues to serve on the UCI Foundation board and runs his own firm, The Nielsen Co.
The full interview appears above; an exerpt appears below.
[Emile Haddad] — I was born in Beirut, Lebanon. I was born to two professionals. We grew up as a middle-class family in Beirut; my mom was a banker, and my dad was an executive at a Dutch company. The one thing that they instilled in me from when I was very young was how important education is going to be in life. [...]
I went to the American University over there. I studied civil engineering, and I lived 11 years through a civil war. I saw a lot of destruction during that period. We had to leave almost overnight, and I came here and started a new life.
I didn't really know where my passion was going to be. ... The one thing that I guess subconsciously was always there, as a result of my upbringing, was the need to see communities being built, rather than communities being (destroyed). It didn't really dawn on me until later that really where my passion lies is in seeing communities come together. I saw a lot of destruction, not only of concrete, but of relationships and families being torn apart. ... As a result, I found myself gravitating toward community development, community building. It includes a lot of elements that make a community what it really is.
I ended up creating a business within Lennar, when I was with Lennar, that really focused on these types of deals. Navy bases were a vehicle, because of the size of these areas and the location. They were actually in the right location with the right size in order for us to put together a mixed-use community.
In 2007-2008 when the market shifted, a lot of these deals were in distress as a result of the capital structures. I didn't want to see these deals just go into quicksand. So I made a decision at the time — when probably a lot of people thought it was a crazy decision — to leave my job and start this company called FivePoint. That was in early 2009. I made a commitment to take these communities, reposition them and put them in the position of being ready when the market comes back.
I was fortunate that I have a group of people who worked with me at Lennar who all decided to take a leap of faith, came with me, and that was the beginning of the company. And like I said, the goal was to make sure that these communities ultimately end up being built.
Emile Haddad: Official Biography
Emile Haddad is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of FivePoint Holdings LLC. FivePoint, which is the largest developer of mixed-use communities in coastal California, owns and manages Great Park Neighborhoods in Irvine, Newhall Ranch in Los Angeles County, The San Francisco Shipyard and Candlestick Point in San Francisco. Combined, these four mixed-used communities will include approximately 40,000 residential homes and 21 million square feet of commercial space. All total, these developments will generate approximately 288,000 jobs during construction and $54 billion in activity for the California economy.
Prior to founding FivePoint, Haddad was the Chief Investment Officer of Lennar Corporation, one of the nation's leading homebuilders, where he was in charge of the company's real estate investments and asset management. Haddad was a founding member of Lennar of California, and was instrumental in its growth.
Haddad has over 30 years of development experience in the United States and overseas. Prior to joining Lennar, Haddad was a senior executive in charge of land for Bramalea, which was part of the Canadian real estate conglomerate in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Active in the community, Haddad serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees at the University of California, Irvine and is on the Real Estate Advisory Boards of the University of California, Irvine and the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a member of the USC Price Planning Program Advisory Board and the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate Advisory Council.
Haddad is the recipient of the Boy Scouts of America Construction Industry Good Scout Award, the UCI Center for Real Estate Lifetime Achievement Award, and the American Diabetes Association Father of the Year Award. In May 2017 he will receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Haddad holds a civil engineering degree from the American University of Beirut.