Greg Konover
CEO, Simon Konover Co.
Age: 39
Industry years: 16 years

Greg Konover leads the third generation at an iconic name in Connecticut’s real estate industry that’s making inroads in multifamily housing development and management throughout the Northeast. In April, Konover succeeded the retiring Jim Wakim as CEO of Simon Konover Co., the commercial real estate firm founded by his grandfather in 1957. Today the West Hartford-based company owns or manages more than 6,500 apartment units, including 4,500 in Connecticut, and has a 3.5-million-square-foot portfolio of commercial properties. Konover joined the firm in 2013 after working in the insurance industry and for his father’s firm, Konover Development.

Q: How has Simon Konover Co.’s development and acquisition strategy evolved in recent years?
A: Our growth has shifted from commercial, retail and office properties to multifamily, and that has happened both on the management, the acquisitions and the development side. We have a portfolio and our growth has shifted from commercial retail and office to multifamily and that has happened on both the management and the acquisitions and the development side. Not long after I started, that shift became even more apparent and we sped up on the multifamily side: really just taking what the market gave us. Starting in 2008 with the Great Recession, we saw a big slowdown in retail center development, and New England was fairly saturated as it relates to retail. We don’t have a lot of population growth in suburban New England, either. So the prospect for new retail development was dimming, and then on the flip side, we are way undersupplied for housing, especially apartments. We saw an opportunity and took some land we had slated for shopping centers and turned to multifamily.

Q: Is the multifamily growth focused more on acquisitions or development?
Of late, it’s mostly through development. Probably 80 percent of our growth has been through development and that’s been driven primarily because until very recently, the market for acquiring multifamily had been extremely competitive. You almost couldn’t miss in terms of a location for multifamily development five or six years ago. One thing we’ve noticed outside of some select municipalities and places like lower Fairfield County and closer to Boston: For the most part, the rents are pretty similar throughout suburban New England. We were looking for communities that had very little or no supply. The other thing we are looking for more than ever is more opportunities for tax abatements and other public subsidies that can help bridge the gap we’re seeing with interest rates. The easiest path is a municipal tax abatement.

Q: How many properties are in the development pipeline?
We have four projects that are mature in our pipeline: 72 units in Rocky Hill, a 40-unit office conversion in downtown Hartford [at 31-45 Pratt St.], 150 units in East Harftord and 216 units in Biddeford, Maine. Hartford does offer an office conversion incentive through the Capital Region Development Authority, where you get beneficial financing and a beneficial tax agreement with the city.

Q: Are there any Connecticut submarkets that are at risk of being oversupplied for rental housing?
A: There’s been a lot of development in and around Hartford. I wouldn’t say it’s oversupplied, but it’s something to pay attention to. There’s been a lot of development in the Norwich-New London area, and the thing to pay attention to down there is the drivers of the economy there are still strong, which is primarily Electric Boat. Right now they look strong, but it’s one of those things that come up every year or two with the federal government and how they are going to fund manufacturing of submarines going forward. New Haven has had a lot of development, but there’s probably room for more. From our perspective, if I can pick a ZIP code that doesn’t have any recent development, that’s a benefit to us. Not everybody feels that way. We’re confident enough in our underwriting and our market to go into a town that  no one else has gone into. We have the benefit of being able to capitalize our projects with company funds. We don’t bring in outside investors. It’s a very simple capital stack, similar to what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years. We get bank financing, we supply our own equity, and we try to keep things relatively low leverage, and we look for fixed-rate debt.

Q: What was the impetus for your grandfather’s entry into the real estate industry?
A: My grandfather is a Holocaust survivor who came to the U.S. after World War II. He had a half-brother who lived in the Hartford area who was in the flooring business, and he worked for him for a period of time and made a connection through the business and the Jewish community here in Hartford, and was able to start small deals with other developers, and really bootstrapped new development in a way you can’t do today. In general, he was obsessed with dealmaking and he lived the business, and he was coming up in the time that shopping centers were exploding as a new way of shopping.

Konover’s Five Favorite Movie Bad Guys

  1. Shooter McGavin in “Happy Gilmore”
  2. Christoph Waltz in “Inglorious Basterds”
  3. Hannibal Lector in “Silence of the Lambs”
  4. Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men”
  5. White Goodman in “Dodgeball”