He's No Casino Mogul But Steve Winn Ranks as a Billionaire TooBy
RealPage founder’s net worth tops $1 billion as stock rallies
Texas-based software company automates tasks for landlords
You’re forgiven if you think Steve Winn is a billionaire casino mogul.
"I am routinely told that I’m not the real Steve Wynn, which is always good for a laugh," said Winn, the 70-year-old founder and chief executive officer of RealPage Inc., a maker of software for managing multifamily rental properties.
While the business may not have the glitz and glamour of the Vegas Strip, it’s still lucrative and has helped him amass a $1.1 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Winn controls more than a quarter of the outstanding shares of the Richardson, Texas-based company, which have surged 38 percent this year, fueled by a thriving U.S. rental market. Earlier this month, RealPage posted a second-quarter profit that beat Wall Street estimates on record revenue of $161.3 million. RealPage, which boosted its outlook for the year, previously forecast $1 billion of annual revenue and $300 million in adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by the end of 2020.
“We’re ahead of plan and marching toward that goal, and I believe the Street is finally starting to believe it,” he said in a phone interview this week.
Winn has reason for optimism. There are about 46 million rental units in the U.S. managed by thousands of landlords, RealPage said in its second-quarter earnings presentation. That fragmentation had slowed the process of integrating software into the property-rental business.
“As a reflection of that, we have not had the deployment or use of technologies in property management,” said Sam Chandan, associate dean at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate. “It’s still an evolving space within commercial real estate.”
Winn has spent almost two decades building a product suite to appeal to almost all of a property manager’s needs. RealPage can create a website for rental listings, handle prospect calls, check applicants’ credit, set and collect rent, arrange utilities, pay bills, provide renter’s insurance, arrange maintenance, manage move-outs and determine how properties are performing compared to peers. Basically, everything except the doorman.
The goals are to “help an owner improve the revenue, reduce expenses or mitigate risk," Winn said.
RealPage clients own 11.5 million units and the company’s annual revenue per unit is $57. The best customers spend more than triple that amount, according to an investor presentation. With 400 salespeople and the total U.S. market for landlord software pegged as an $11 billion-a-year industry, the company has plenty of room for growth.
“We still are way under-penetrated with the products we already offer," Winn said. "I don’t think this is over when we hit a billion dollars.”
Winn, who grew up in Dallas, wasn’t really interested in the business, at least early on.
After getting an electrical-engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1969, he joined Computer Language Research Inc., the accounting software company founded by his father, Francis Winn. Steve took over as CEO eight years later. In 1995, he wanted to expand with a tax software business that CLR acquired from Simon & Schuster Inc. As part of the deal, he had to take on a side business called Little Buddy, which provided lease accounting software for landlords.
"I was forced to buy it," Winn said. “I didn’t intend to keep it."
But Winn soon changed his mind about Little Buddy, realizing that real estate had no dominant software provider, making the market ripe for expansion. After the family sold CLR to Thomson Corp. in 1998, he bought Little Buddy back from Thomson for $10 million, renamed the product Rent Roll, and founded RealPage. Two decades and two dozen acquisitions later, the company is worth $3.4 billion.
The biggest deals came this year. They include RealPage’s pending $300 million purchase of Lease Rent Options, which makes pricing optimization software, and its planned $250 million takeover of On-Site Manager, which helps property managers process rental leads.
“We literally can set a price the same way an airline or hotel sets price based on imbalances in supply and demand,” Winn said. “Big data has been a central thrust in the acquisition strategy over the last year.”
In the short term, an expected softening of the near-record rental market occupancy rate of 95 percent should actually help bolster RealPage’s revenue as landlords make more investments to fill vacancies, he said.
As for being a billionaire, Winn said it isn’t “relevant to really any part of me.”
And it wasn’t even needed for his father to get VIP treatment when he checked in at the Mirage in Las Vegas. When it came up in conversation that he was Steve Winn’s father, the staff thought he was referring to the hotel’s founder.
“Dad said he didn’t understand why he got the presidential suite for only $500 per night.”
— With assistance by Prashant Gopal