Column: Steve Selig to receive Council’s 2014 Four Pillar Award
By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on May 9, 2014
The Council for Quality Growth has tapped real estate businessman Steve Selig as the recipient of the 2014 Four Pillar Award.
The award is one of the most prestigious annual recognitions given to leaders who have had a major impact on the Atlanta region – from Tom Cousins to Arthur Blank to Shirley Franklin to Johnny Isakson to John Portman.
“It reads like a Who’s Who. These are all people I’ve looked up to and learned from,” Selig said in an interview from his company’s offices on Spring Street. “It’s overwhelming.”
Selig, however, credited his grandfather, his uncle, his father and his mother for having the most influence on his life and career.
His grandfather, Ben Massell, started the business in 1918. When he died, half the business was left to Steve Selig’s uncle – Ben Massell Jr. — and his mother — Caroline Massell Selig. His father — Simon Stephen “Slick” Selig — came from a family that had been in the chemical business. That company – Selig Chemicals – was sold to National Service Industries, and Slick Selig joined his brother-in-law in the real estate business.
An important historical note — Ben Massell Jr. was instrumental in saving The Fox Theatre, giving what was initially an anonymous $400,000 gift to save the landmark, the largest single donation to the cause.
But it’s Steve Selig’s mother who taught him the lesson to live by — the theme that will be the slogan for the Four Pillar evening on Oct. 2 at the Georgia World Congress Center.
“When I was growing up, whenever I had a decision to make, my mother would say: ‘Steve, you can never do wrong by doing right,’ ” Selig said.
Although he has preferred to stay in the background, Selig has had a rather colorful past. He worked on Jimmy Carter’s campaign for president, helped put on the inauguration and then worked in the Carter administration from 1976 to 1980. He also joined forces with Peter Conlon and Alex Cooley – co-founding Southern Promotions and Music Midtown.
After a brief stint in the banking business, Selig rejoined the family business.
“The big thing that happened was in 1986 when my dad was killed in an automobile accident. That was a year and a half after my mother had died of cancer,” Selig said. “I had a chance to say goodbye to her. I was unable to say goodbye to my father.”
But the Seligs and Massells have created an extended family through their business interests, including real estate and AAA Parking.
In his civic roles, Selig has served as president of The Temple, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and the American Jewish Committee. He currently serves on the boards of the Woodruff Arts Center, the Jewish Federation of m Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and the American Jewish Committee. He currently serves on the boards of the Woodruff Arts Center and the Alliance Theatre.
“It is no coincidence that Selig Enterprises and metro Atlanta have both grown so robustly over the past two and a half decades,” said Brent Reid, 2014 chair of the Council for Quality Growth, and president of Winter Construction. “We are so pleased to have the opportunity to honor Steve Selig’s contributions as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and civic leader in this remarkable era for our region. He’s just the right leader to celebrate with the 25th Four Pillar Award.”
The four leaders who will pay tribute to Selig and the four pillars of quality, responsibility, vision and integrity will be Vince Dooley, former University of Georgia head football coach and athletic director; Larry Gellerstedt, president and CEO of Cousins Properties Inc.; Doug Hertz, president of United Distributors; and Mike Leven, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands.
“Steve Selig and his family have been pillars of the real estate community in Atlanta for many years and I am thrilled the Council for Quality Growth is recognizing Steve’s significant contributions to the industry and to the community,” Gellerstedt said.
Hertz and Gellerstedt are also serving as co-chairs of the event along with Mayor Kasim Reed; Virginia Hepner, president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center; Steve Koonin, CEO and part owner of the Atlanta Hawks; Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot; Jerome Russell, president of Russell New Urban Development; and Charlie Tickle, CEO of the Daniel Corp.
“We’ve seen Atlanta grow — we’ve been through the hard times and the good times,” said Selig, 71. “It’s been a good life, and I want to keep it going.”
Good times at Equifax
Equifax Inc. CEO Rick Smith rushed through his presentation at his company’s annual meeting on May 2 so fast, one would have thought he was hoping the handful of shareholders present wouldn’t hear what was being said.
But the exact opposite was true. Equifax has had an amazing run over the past several years, and Smith would have had every reason to savor every slide showing the 115-year-old company’s financial performance.
“Last year was the best year by almost any measure,” Smith said, adding that “every single business unit delivered” in 2013. “If we could just take these results and make it ‘Groundhog Day’ for the next five years – can we make that happen?”
Looking forward to 2014, Smith said: “We are off to a good start. I think it’s going to be much like 2013.”
Although Smith didn’t introduce his board to shareholders, he did introduce the newest director — Robert Marcus, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Cable. Equifax, which does have a diverse executive team, has only one woman director and no African-Americans on its board.
“We go through an arduous process to look for diversity,” said Smith, adding that Equifax hired a search firm that specialized in diverse board searches. “We couldn’t find a female minority with the skill set we needed.”
Cousins Properties Inc. has been reinventing itself over the past five years, and that reinvention was dramatized at its annual meeting on May 6.
In 2009, 53 percent of the company’s business was based on the office market with the rest coming primarily from retail and industrial investments.
But today, 94 percent of the company’s business is the office market — especially signature, class A properties that are in urban locations where people want to live, work and play.
Because Atlanta’s office market has been relatively soft in recent years, that has translated to Cousins putting much of its energy and investments in other markets — primarily in Texas.
But Cousins CEO Larry Gellerstedt said the Atlanta market is beginning to show real improvement, and the company is paying close attention to potential opportunities closer to home.
“We strive to create value through our development pipeline, our deep industry knowledge and great investment opportunities for the future,” Gellerstedt said.
Cousins did say goodbye to outgoing Cousins director Billy Payne, who headed Atlanta’s Olympic Games and has served on Cousins’ board for 18 years. Chairman Taylor Glover said Payne had wanted to step down a year ago.
Cousins elected a new board director — Donna Hyland, president and CEO of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The company has two women directors on its eight-person board, but no African-Americans.
Cobb Chamber honors Shan Cooper
Shan Cooper, vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., received the 2014 Woman of Distinction Award from the Cobb Executive Women at the Cobb Chamber’s First Monday Breakfast on May 5.
The award recognizes a woman who has demonstrated exceptional leadership through her professional endeavors, community involvement, ethical sensitivity and social responsibility.
Cooper is general manager of three facilities. She serves on numerous boards, including the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, where she’s serving as its 2014 chair.
Georgia Historical Society
One of the oldest organizations in the state — the Georgia Historical Society — has elected its new volunteer leaders.
Robert Jepson Jr. was elected board chair at the organization’s 175th annual meeting on April 30 in Savannah. Jepson is chairman and CEO of Jepson Associates, a private investment firm.
Vince Dooley of Athens was elected vice chair of the society. Dooley served as head football coach at The University of Georgia from 1964-1988 and as director of athletics, 1979-2004.
John Helmken II of Savannah will remain treasurer; and Jackie Montag of Atlanta remains secretary. Clay Boardman III of Augusta is the newest board member.