Joe Lubeck // American Landmark Apartments

Joe Lubeck is the founder and CEO of American Landmark Apartments, one of the fastest growing multifamily owner-operators in the United States, with over 28,000 apartment units throughout Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. He is also the executive chairman of Electra Capital. 

Forbes Magazine recently described Joe as an expert on value-added and distressed real estate repositioning, and on multifamily acquisitions, operations and dispositions. In the last 15 years, he has overseen four successful multifamily portfolio builds totaling 100,000 units, with a value in excess of $10 billion. 

But there is more to his story of astronomic business growth. He has many unique rules in how he conducts his business, seemingly simple guidelines that anyone can emulate and implement immediately. And then there is his emunah peshutah in his partner—Hashem. Joe believes that the power of tzedakah helps his business. To him, this is simply a fact. 

We talked about real estate in Florida (where he resides and owns multiple properties) vs. New York, the economy and more. Sometimes, hard work really does pay off.



“I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I’m an only child and was raised single-handedly by my mother. My father figure when I was growing up was my grandfather Morris Eshkol. I grew up very poor and very blessed—we never missed a meal. I had wonderful grandparents who took care of my mother and me; we lived in their home. My mother was a teacher, and my grandparents ran a Jewish camp in the Poconos called Blue Mountain. They started the Jewish camp with a kosher kitchen in 1923. They never made any real money, but they had a lot of fun. 

“I learned the value of hard work early on. My grandfather found me a job starting when I was in the fourth grade. There was an apartment building down the street where I’d sweep the floor, take out the trash and polish the brass in the elevator before school in the morning. I decided then that I would never be in the apartment business, or real estate at all for that matter, but apparently, that’s exactly what Hashem’s intention was. 

“I was not involved in formal Jewish traditions such as going to shul. I had my bar mitzvah lessons at home, and my bar mitzvah was attended by three people. I lost the ability to read and write Hebrew by the time I was 14. 

“Looking back, I feel like I wasted 40 years of the chance to study Torah, but my rabbi insists that I am exactly where Hashem wants me to be. Still, I’m trying to make up for it now. 

“I started keeping kosher at the request of my six-year-old daughter. She started asking why we eat this and that, and when she asked us to keep a kosher house, we decided we would. I later met my teachers in Chabad. I’ve become more observant and enjoyed the real joys of Judaism. The rabbi I learn with the most is Rabbi Dovid Vigler of Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens. 

“I’ve also become good friends with Rabbi Shlomo Rothstein, who was my son’s rabbi at Vanderbilt, and I also recently became close to Rabbi Chaim Danziger, the rabbi of Rostov, Russia. 

“I always worked when I was growing up, but I was not entrepreneurial. I just worked. I studied hard in school, but I became a bit of a troublemaker in high school. ‘Trouble’ meant that I cut class and smoked some cigarettes; typical kid stuff. I maintained my perfect grades, so there was nothing the school could really do to me, but they had their eye on me. Fortunately, when I was 15, a guidance counselor took pity on me. By that time, they didn’t want to let me back into school, but he said, ‘I don’t think Joe is a bad kid. He’s just exceptionally smart.’ He arranged for me to take the SATs, and I did very well. They managed to get me enrolled in Cornell University when I was 15, so I skipped tenth, 11th and 12th grades, and I graduated college when I was 19. 

“I was able to get into the Cornell College of Agriculture because it had lower tuition. At that time, I thought I wanted to be a college professor and my degree was in communication. I got my masters at the University of Delaware and became an instructor there as well. That’s when I realized that I didn’t want to be a professor, so I enrolled in law school thinking that I wanted to become a corporate attorney. 

“I met my wife in law school, and there is no question in my mind that Hashem sent her to me specifically. Back then, they assigned partners to you in law school, and on the first day of school—the first hour, to be specific—she was assigned to be my study partner. The rest is history. Our children are Carla, Rachel and Thomas (Moshe).

“I became a lawyer and went to work for a company that owned a lot of real estate. If there is anything that contributed to my career success, it would be my work ethic. I am on a path I never expected to be on, but Hashem clearly put all of the pieces in place for me. I feel very blessed to be where I am today. 

“I ended up working for a company on the operations side of real estate, overseeing the operations as well as the acquisition and disposition of apartment buildings. Apparently, someone thought that because I worked in apartments in fourth and fifth grade, I would know something about the industry. I really didn’t, but I played along and received good training. I transitioned from the legal side to the operational side and helped them grow. 

“My wife and I had always talked about moving to Florida. I was living in Pennsylvania at the time and making a very nice living wage. I was happy and working hard, but we got the inspiration to do this ourselves, to buy one building in Florida. We found a partner and took every single penny we had and bought a building in St. Petersburg, Florida. I went from being an attorney to becoming the maintenance man, leasing agent and property manager for our building in St. Pete. 

“Even back then, I believed in Hashem and in the power of tzedakah to bring success. Giving tzedakah was something that my grandfather taught me. He taught me first and foremost to be a gentleman. He also taught me to connect to Hashem, whether you are observant in an organized fashion or not.

“He served in World War I as a Jewish chaplain, and he was my role model. Although he wasn’t someone who went to shul, he taught me a lot and gave me a wonderful upbringing even though we were very poor. My grandfather always told me, ‘Give till it hurts.’ And when I was working, my wife and I tried to give to others, both of our time and money. We saw the truth of Hashem’s promise to repay those who give. I was very blessed. I started with one building, then three, and now we have 120 buildings. It’s been a wonderful career. 

“My wife, who is a convert, became observant and has been the most wonderful mother and role model to our children. She became more observant than me, and I learned from her. We have been married for 36 years. My wife was originally an attorney, but once we had children, she wanted to stay home to take care of the kids. 

“Our first building was a 144-unit hotel in terrible condition. We worked on it every day, nonstop. Then I got lucky and we made money off it. The cost of the first building was a small fortune. We saved up some money and spent every penny we had. I was able to get one investor, Michael Berardi, who had been a mentor of mine. He invested with me until he passed away a couple of years ago. 

“We borrowed most of the money for our first property. A bank owned it, and they promised me new financing if I would come in and renovate it. We cleaned out our bank account, but I had confidence we could make it. 

“I named the company Landmark Residential—don’t ask me why, but I thought it was catchy. I put up a sign in the front that I’ll always remember. My sign said “Another fine Landmark property,” even though it was the first Landmark property. You have to start somewhere. 

“I remember going to shul and writing out what was for us a very large check. I told myself that I need to make Hashem my partner, and He has been my partner ever since. 

“My wife worked with me in the business and would give me advice—she still does. My wife’s undergraduate degree was in accounting, and initially she would help me keep the books until we got our own management company. She also helped me judge the character of the people we did business with. I still bring her to dinner with clients sometimes to get her opinion on people. 

“Today, we have multiple companies. We have an apartment company, a hotel company, a single-family rental company, and a small bank. Between all the businesses, we employ around 1,000 people. 

“By the time I got to 1,000 apartments, I had some property managers in place. I then hired my former boss. She had always treated me with respect, and I asked her if she would join the company as the leader of our management company. She worked for me for quite some time until she retired. 

“She hired more people, and then we started assembling investors as part of limited partnerships. I would go around making presentations. I would go to country clubs and friends’ houses and say, ‘Come invest with me.’ I did that for about six years until I was able to get institutional investors like Morgan Stanley, Brookfield, C3 Realty Group and many others. 

“I was also very blessed in 2007, when there was an economic crisis. I knew it was a good time to buy, and I needed a bigger partner.

“Through a mutual friend, I was introduced to the amazing Salkind family from Tel Aviv. They owned a company called Electra, which today is the biggest employer in Israel. In 2007, we joined forces. They invested in my company and we became 50/50 partners in all future endeavors. We have been partners ever since, and today’s asset value is in excess of $10 billion. When I began that partnership, I worked with George (Gershon) Salkind, who was a true pioneer. Today I work with his sons. 

“Recently, in partnership with the Electra family, we’ve taken advantage of other opportunities. During COVID, we saw an opportunity to get into the hotel business. Together with the Salkinds, we also partnered with the Korman family from Philadelphia. The Kormans are the operators of our hotel platform, the AKA brand of hotels. We have three AKA hotels in New York, soon to be four. We are in Boston, Washington, Miami and Palm Beach.

“Some of our investors asked us to create a debt platform for them. They said they loved and trusted us. We created Electra Capital, which is a boutique bank for real estate lending. We are partners, and we fund mostly multi-family real estate deals. I’ve been very blessed. 

“I have a wonderful partner, Sam Greenblatt, who has been my friend for many years. He lives in Philadelphia and runs the bank. 

“Almost all of our employees invest in our company, and everyone is a partner in the company in varying degrees. 

“We want everyone to be vested and invested in their success. We have a great company culture. The success of the company is everyone’s success. We allow every one of our employees to invest in the company and, more importantly, every employee, down to the maintenance man, gets bonuses based on the company’s success. That means they get cash rewards not only based on their performance or the performance of the property, but the performance of the company as a whole—it’s a metric.

“Partnering with the right people has been instrumental to my success. My partners are all like-minded, hard-working, honest, ethical people. Many of my team members have been with me for many years. For example, my CFO has been with me for 17 years and my chief investment officer has been with me for 11 years. We share the wealth and have fun together.” 

You seem to have grown up not religious but with a deep connection to Hashem.  

That’s exactly how I would describe it. Today, when people ask me for advice, I tell them to spend their time doing mitzvot and learning Torah. But for me, I didn’t become studious until I was in my 50s, though I did have a deep, true connection to Hashem. My kids all had a more formal Jewish education than I did. Now I am trying to make up for lost time, studying more and harder. The more you study, the more you know how little you know. One door leads to another. It’s a beautiful experience to truly be immersed in study. 

I also advise people who are starting a business to give till it hurts, just like I was taught. There were times when it wasn’t easy to give, but tzedakah never failed us. We saw a direct correlation. We would give tzedakah, and a deal would develop seemingly out of thin air, or we would see blessing in our personal lives. We saw it every time.


When you started out, did you pitch your deals to friends and family?

I was an only child, and I didn’t really have any aunts and uncles, so I wasn’t pitching anything to family. But I went to friends and local professionals. The key to success is being successful. Meaning, once our first few properties were making money, one investor would bring another. One doctor would bring three doctors, or one lawyer would bring five lawyers. 

We want everyone to benefit and be motivated. We try to prevent turnover of team members. We invest in them and they invest in us with their time. We think that’s a mutually beneficial relationship. We want our employees to have a good life and be financially successful. Last year we had over 50 internal promotions, where people are promoted from within the company. 

Are you telling me that you’ve had maintenance people with you for 20 years?

I don’t know about 20 years, but certainly for ten. The people who have been with me the longest have now been promoted. They might be a regional maintenance head now. For example, my chief administrative officer who helps oversee all systems in the company has been with us for 13 years. She started out as a leasing agent. Another example is my assistant Gerri, who has been with me for about 15 years.

An expert in building large corporations told me that when hiring a personal assistant, you need to hire them to be your personal assistant for all areas of your life, not only for business-related tasks.  

That’s absolutely true. I’ve been very lucky. In my whole career, I’ve only had three assistants, so I must be okay to work for.

Remote personal assistants don’t work; it has to be in person. Gerri smooths the road for me. She helps me evaluate people in situations. She helps coordinate my business life and my family life, and I know that I can trust her with everything.

When you began your career, how did you handle the daily responsibilities to your many investors? There is a sentiment in real estate that the smaller investor bothers you way more than the institutional investor.

I tried to always answer the phone, even late at night. But a key was that I generated monthly reports for every single investor so they could see how we were doing, even when we were small. Always communicate and always answer their questions. Thank G-d, there hasn’t been a lot of bad news. But if there is ever good news and bad news, always tell the bad news first. People understand if there is a problem and you have a solution. 

You’re saying that even for people who have just a few small properties, and even if the investor is someone you know personally, you should generate regular reports for them. 

Absolutely. Open and honest communication is crucial. Another thing is alignment. I didn’t take a lot of money off the table for salary and fees. Our arrangement was more like, “I’ll make money when you make money.” And as for the investors who ask a lot of questions, you learn to love them. But generating reports even when you think you don’t need to shows that you are a professional and that you take your work seriously. 

How did you balance it all while building your company? Answering investors, dealing with new ones, the bank…?


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