Father and son duo John A. and John M. Sobrato will step down from daily operations at their storied Silicon Valley real estate development firm to focus on the family's philanthropic efforts, The Sobrato Organization announced Monday.
Real estate veteran Rob Hollister will take over as president of real estate in charge of day-to-day operations. The move marks the first time a nonfamily member will run daily operations for the company, which has built many of the valley's signature corporate campuses.
"We're still going to be involved in the real estate business, but letting someone outside of the family run the business is a big step," John M. Sobrato, 52, said in an interview with this newspaper. "As we look to the future, managing the family foundation is an important part of the family's focus. Philanthropy and giving away money wisely is a business we are still learning."
The Sobrato Organization manages 75 commercial properties in Silicon Valley totaling 7.5 million square feet. It also manages 6,700 apartment units from Seattle to San Diego, including the Aventino Apartments in Los Gatos and Villa Torino in San Jose.
Sobrato said he and his 74-year-old father also plan to spend more time enjoying life and traveling. Hollister, a longtime veteran of the real estate investment firm Hines, will join The Sobrato Organization later this month. He will oversee the real estate team in the sourcing, evaluation and underwriting of deals, as well as all project financing and lender relationships.
"We want someone in the office every day thinking about the business," Sobrato said.
The Sobrato Organization was founded by John A. Sobrato in 1979. John M. Sobrato has led the company for the past 15 years.
Through Sobrato Philanthropies, the firm has donated more than $238 million in cash and real estate to the Silicon Valley community. In January, the Sobrato foundation announced a $5 million contribution to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center for equipment for a new 168-bed hospital wing. The building, which will house the hospital's renowned rehabilitation center as well as acute care and intensive care centers, among other facilities, will be called the John A. and Susan Sobrato Pavilion.
In April 2012, John A. and Susan Sobrato, along with their son John M. Sobrato, joined the Giving Pledge, the initiative started by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates. The pledge promises that 100 percent of the Sobratos' wealth will be given away or left to the Sobrato Family Foundation.
The family has been very supportive of Santa Clara University, which both John A. and John M. Sobrato attended. They serve on SCU's board of trustees.
Michael Engh, president of Santa Clara University, said, "John A Sobrato has chaired the Facilities Master Planning Committee and enhanced the beauty of the campus through his guidance, leadership, and generosity. He and his family have also supported programs that benefit the university and the wider community, particularly those in greatest need. He is a true 'man for others' in the Jesuit tradition of Santa Clara."
Emmett Carson, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, said the Sobratos bring not just money but intellectual talent and networks of influence to the causes they care about, from health to education.
"This announcement says that their biggest contribution is yet to come," Carson said. "They were very active philanthropists when they were business leaders, and now they are going to spend even more time devoted to philanthropy. It's a spectacular statement that I hope other business leaders follow."
Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706. Follow her at Twitter.com/danahull.