Kenneth Leventhal, real estate accounting titan, dies at 91

The founder of one of the largest US real estate accounting firms, which ultimately merged with Ernst & Young, passed away in his Los Angeles home on 8 May.

Kenneth Leventhal, co-founder of one of the largest real estate accounting firms in the US, died in his Los Angeles home on 8 May. He was 91 years old.

With his wife Elaine Otter, Leventhal formed Kenneth Leventhal & Company in the second bedroom of their apartment in 1949. As the firm grew, Leventhal had the firm focus its efforts on real estate accounting and consulting. 

The firm’s clients included such real estate giants as Trammell Crow, Donald Trump, hotel developer John Portman and shopping centre developer Edward DeBartolo. Through his firm, Leventhal advised the US Resolution Trust Corporation in selling billions of dollars in assets of failed thrift institutions. As its reputation grew, the firm took on global assignments, advising international clients in restructuring and selling portfolios of distressed real estate and other assets.

In 1990, Leventhal was succeeded as managing partner of the firm by his protégé Stan Ross, who had joined the firm in 1961. In 1995, the firm merged with Ernst & Young, one of the largest public global accounting firms. At the time of the merger, the Leventhal firm had nearly $200 million in revenue and offices in 13 US cities and an international affiliation in many countries. In 1999, 50 years after he founded his firm, Leventhal retired as an Ernst & Young partner.

“Ken was a visionary,” Ross told PERE. “He was a mentor, teacher and coach. He is an irreplaceable icon both in the industry and the community. He taught me a lot.”

Ernst & Young issued the following statement: “We deeply regret the passing of Kenneth Leventhal, one of the true leaders of our profession and a key figure in the growth of our firm. He was a teacher and guiding light for many members of our firm.”

Howard Roth, global real estate leader for Ernst & Young, added: “Kenneth Leventhal had a profound effect on our industry, our firm and on me personally. He will be missed throughout the company.”

Leventhal also was a benefactor of the University of Southern California. In 1993, he led a 10-year fundraising campaign for the university that resulted in the raising of $2.85 billion by 2003, the most successful fundraising effort in higher education. The university granted him an honorary doctorate degree in 2000.

“Here at USC, I can work to improve society as a whole by helping an effective school to become even more effective,” Leventhal said in his profile on the USC website. “I can help accounting students receive an education that develops the skills and knowledge and vision they need to become the accounting professionals of tomorrow.”

Leventhal is survived by his wife of 63 years, his two sons Robert and Ross and other family members. Services are being held today, 10 May, at 2 pm, at Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills, located at 5950 Forest Lawn Drive in Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Elaine and Kenneth Leventhal School of Accounting at the University of Southern California.