Owen D. Thomas, chief executive officer of Boston Properties, the largest publicly traded developer and owner of class A office properties in the United States, has been elected as the new ULI global chairman. Thomas, a longtime ULI member, ULI governing trustee, and ULI Foundation governor, will serve a two-year term that ends June 30, 2021.
As ULI’s global chairman, Thomas will guide the Institute’s delivery of member value and mission-oriented work, with an overarching goal of positioning ULI as the leading global real estate organization that attracts and retains top industry leaders; the leading authority on real estate and the “go-to” place for industry information and expertise; and the provider of solutions to the most complex real estate and urban development problems faced by cities around the world.
Thomas views the global chairmanship as an opportunity to support and facilitate members’ efforts to advance ULI’s mission in each of the three regions in which the Institute has a presence—the Americas, Europe and the Asia Pacific region. “ULI is the leading organization for curating and disseminating industry knowledge and best practices in community building. No other organization comes close to ULI, in terms of sharing expertise and celebrating success stories that can benefit land use decision-making in communities around the globe,” Thomas said. “The potential of our organization to make a meaningful, lasting difference through the work of our members is inspiring.”
Thomas succeeds Thomas W. Toomey, whose term as global chairman ended June 30. “We are very fortunate to have Owen taking the helm. He is dedicated, decisive, and he believes in ULI as a member-driven, mission-focused organization,” Toomey said. “He will keep ULI’s momentum going strong.”
During Thomas’s term as global chairman, he will work with Toomey, ULI Global CEO W. Edward Walter, ULI’s global board of directors, and other Institute leaders to further expand ULI’s reach at the global, regional, and local levels. Thomas’s priorities include the following:
- Fulfilling the goals of ULI’s Global Strategic Plan, a multiyear strategy to strengthen ULI and broaden its appeal through robust member engagement and impact;
- Further integrating and expanding ULI’s global footprint through increasing connectivity and idea sharing across the Americas, Europe and the Asia Pacific region; and
- Fostering and emphasizing ULI’s philanthropic initiatives to expand the Institute’s mission of creating better communities, including education initiatives to broaden diversity within the industry and programs to create more sustainable performance in the built environment.
“Owen’s deep commitment to ULI and his thoughtful approach to business management will be invaluable assets as our organization continues its efforts to improve the member experience,” Walter said. “We are excited about the Institute’s future under Owen’s leadership. His wisdom, experience, and innovative thinking will help drive ULI to new levels of excellence.”
Thomas, who has been a ULI member for more than 30 years, has a strong record of volunteerism with ULI. In addition to his service as a governing trustee and a ULI Foundation governor, he is a member of the Technology and Real Estate Council. From 2013 to 2016, he chaired and was a member of the Global Strategy Committee, which helps guide the Institute’s global governance restructuring initiative.
In addition to serving on Toomey’s leadership team, Thomas has served on the leadership teams of four other global chairmen—J. Ronald Terwilliger, whose term was from 1999 to 2001; the late Joseph W. O’Connor, whose chairmanship spanned 2001 to 2003; Lynn Thurber, 2013 to 2015; and Randall K. Rowe, 2015 to 2017.
Thomas also served on several terms on the ULI Foundation Board of Directors, co-chaired the 2018 Host Committee for ULI’s Fall Meeting in Boston, and has been a member of the advisory board for ULI New York. He is a former member of the Institute’s Industrial and Office Park Development Council and the Community Development Council.
As the CEO and a director of Boston Properties, a real estate investment trust (REIT), Thomas oversees one of the largest owners, managers, and developers of class A office properties in the United States, with a significant presence in five markets: Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. The company’s portfolio totals more than 51 million square feet (4.7 million sq m) and consists of 196 properties (including 11 properties under construction/redevelopment). While the portfolio primarily consists of class A office properties, it also includes several retail and residential properties and one hotel. Boston Properties is regarded for its leadership in sustainable building practices, commitment to in-house building management expertise, and responsiveness to tenants’ needs.
Thomas is a director of Lehman Brothers Holdings and served as its first chairman from 2012 until March 2013. Prior to his service at Lehman, he held various leadership positions at Morgan Stanley for 24 years, including service from 2008 through 2011 as the CEO of Morgan Stanley Asia. While based in Hong Kong, Thomas was instrumental in helping to raise ULI’s visibility and increase the Institute’s membership in the Asia Pacific region; and he served on a panel of ULI leaders and industry experts convened by the Institute to advise the government of Hong Kong on repurposing the Kai Tak airport. He was also president of Morgan Stanley Investment Management, head of Morgan Stanley Real Estate, and chairman of Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities; and he served on Morgan Stanley’s Management Committee from 2005 until 2011.
Thomas is an officer of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts and member of its executive board. He is a director of the Real Estate Roundtable and a former chairman of the Pension Real Estate Association.