A tall, sharply dressed man steps to a lectern at the gleaming new Tate Student Center on the UGA campus and addresses two dozen expectant faces.
"Welcome to the fall 2009 board meeting of the UGA Foundation," announces Sam Holmes to the foundation trustees. As of this moment, Holmes (BBA '87) assumes his new role as chairman. At age 44, he's the second-youngest person ever to lead the 72-year-old fundraising body.
The foundation board currently provides $24 million annually in direct funding, from some $500 million in assets. This kind of institutional financial planning requires a great deal of expertise and experience, and in its history the foundation has employed the skills of trustees who were former governors, supreme court justices, CEOs, philanthropists, and civic leaders.
The current board is just such a blue-chip assembly, a group pledged to help UGA continue its rise among notable American institutions of higher learning. Here's Taylor Glover (BBA '73), president and CEO of Turner Enterprises Inc. Here's Bill Griffin (BBA '72), managing director of Fidelity National Information Services and president of world-famous Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh. Here's Bill Young (BBA '78), outgoing foundation chairman and partner at General Wholesale Company, one of Atlanta's largest privately owned businesses. And here's Darren DeVore (BBA '86), managing director of Artisan Partners Limited Partnership. Devore is also the benefactor who provided $125,000 in seed money for the Terry College's Student Managed Investment Fund, which allows Terry students to invest real money in real stocks — with results that are currently outperforming the Russell 1000 large-cap index.
Fellow trustees entrusted Holmes with the leadership role for a reason.
"Sam has a unique ability to create a vision and to lead people toward it," says Young. "He'll be a dynamic and effective leader of this organization."
Holmes is also a leader in real estate. And when the subject is tenant representation in the Atlanta market, Holmes and his partner at CB Richard Ellis, John Shlesinger (MBA '83), tend to dominate the conversation. "Sam and John," as they're known about town, are preeminent brokers in the South's largest city. Since teaming up in 1987, they've been responsible for scores of deals worth billions of dollars — with a domino effect on thousands of jobs.
"God knows, they're on a roll," declares Andy Ghertner (BBA '65), executive vice president at Cushman & Wakefield and a mentor to both men when they began their realty careers. "While I compete with them every day, I can't help but admire how well they've done. I'm proud of them."
Holmes and Shlesinger hold highly exclusive vice chairmen positions at realty giant CBRE; only a few other high-fliers among 30,000 worldwide employees of the firm hold such a title. The Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors has named Holmes top office leasing producer eight times in the last 12 years, and the Atlanta Business Chronicle has honored him with Deal-of-the-Year awards on four occasions. He's made his way onto enough who's-who-in-real-estate lists to paper over the walls of his 14th floor Terminus building office in ritzy Buckhead. Simply put, Sam Holmes is a big deal when it comes to big deals.
And all this at age 44. So where's the hauteur? The swagger? Look somewhere else.
Sam Holmes is the kind of man who personally escorts a visitor to the front desk at the end of a meeting...if it's a slow day, he's wearing a golf shirt, khakis, loafers and no socks. And if the mail delivery guy is at the desk, Holmes will clap him on the back.
"How's it going, Alvin?"
Like Will Rogers, you get the feeling that Sam Holmes never met a man he didn't like.