Executive will be succeeded by Drew Frick, Gate Petroleum Co. general counsel
After a 35-year career with the company, Gate Lands President Ken Wilson will retire Dec. 31 and be succeeded by Drew Frick, general counsel of parent company Gate Petroleum Co.
Wilson, 67, joined Jacksonville-based Gate, a privately held company founded by Herbert Peyton, in 1983 when it bought the real estate assets of Stockton, Whatley, Davin & Co.
Wilson said he was 32 when he joined Gate but had worked with Joe Davin on the same large tracts of real estate three years before.
“It's not for the weak of heart,” Wilson said of real estate.
“It involves taking risks and it involves riding the tide of economic cycles. Coming to work for Herbert, being an entrepreneur and a risk-taker, I learned a lot,” he said.
With Peyton, he said, they developed some of the largest deals in the area.
Established in 1884, SWD, as it was known, grew into the largest mortgage loan servicing company in the Southeast with a more than $3.8 billion portfolio in addition to about $100 million in real estate holdings.
The company was instrumental in the development of Northeast Florida, including Deerwood, Jacksonville’s first gated community, and Ponte Vedra Beach.
General American Oil Co., which bought SWD in 1964, was purchased in 1983 by Phillips Petroleum Co., which announced its intention to sell SWD.
Several banks and corporations made offers for SWD’s combined 50,000-acre real estate management interests and its $100 million mortgage portfolio.
First National Bank of Boston bought the mortgage banking business and Gate Petroleum was the only bidder on the real estate, buying it for $60 million, less than the appraised value.
Wilson recalls Davin telling him that the bankers thought all the money in the deal was in the bank assets. “And he smiled.”
Peyton's deal put Gate on the development map.
In his role as Gate Lands president, Wilson developed some of Northeast Florida’s signature commercial and residential properties.
Those include Deerwood Park, Southpoint Office Park, Kendall Town Center, Deerwood Center and Bartram Walk.
He has been leading the company’s land acquisition and development of Durbin Park, a 1,600-acre mixed-use development in northern St. Johns County.
Gate said Durbin Park will be the largest contiguous retail development in Northeast Florida.
“Ken has been a tremendous asset to our company and the Jacksonville community for decades,” said Herbert Peyton, Gate Petroleum founder and chairman, in a news release.
“We are grateful for his years of service and wish him all the best in the future,” he said.
Wilson said in the release that he enjoyed every day of his job.
“I am sincerely grateful for the amazing opportunity Gate and Mr. Peyton provided to me and look forward to watching their continued success in the years to come,” he said.
Frick, 43, will continue as general counsel and will work with Gatlin Development Co. as the two companies complete Durbin Park, which is slated to include Bass Pro Shops, as well as retail stores, restaurants and office space, multifamily housing and hotels.
Gate Petroleum President John Peyton said that since Frick joined Gate in 2004 he “has built a reputation within the company and among our business partners as a successful and trusted leader.
“His strategic thinking and ability to deliver results will serve our company well as we move forward with development of the additional phases of Durbin Park.”
John Peyton served as Jacksonville’s mayor from 2003-11.
Frick previously served as a land use attorney at the Rogers Towers law firm where he worked with comprehensive planning, zoning, concurrency, and related permitting.
A graduate of Clemson University, he earned his J.D. degree from the University of Georgia.
“I see it as business as usual,” Frick said Monday. “Ken Wilson left it in good shape. I am thankful for what Ken has done over the 14 years I've worked with him. I appreciate the opportunities he has given me,” he said.
Herbert Peyton founded Gate in 1960. It operates in diversified industries that include retail convenience stores, car washes, fleet and fuel services, real estate, hospitality and construction materials.
Its retail operations include convenience stores in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Gate Hospitality owns and operates the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club, The Lodge and Club in Ponte Vedra, Epping Forest Yacht and Country Club in Jacksonville and Tthe River Club in Downtown Jacksonville.
Gate Precast owns and operates nine concrete plants that specialize in structural and architectural precast concrete products.
Wilson called Herbert Peyton a “bootstrap entrepreneur, maybe one of the last bootstrap entrepreneurs” in Jacksonville who took risks and generated success.
He said Peyton and others, like Jack Demetree, William Cesery Sr., Martin Stein Sr., David Hutson, J.E. Davis and brothers Jerome and Paul Fletcher, understood the risks and rewards of real estate development.
“There aren't many left with their mind for business and acceptance of risk,” Wilson said.
“I was lucky enough to be a young member of that generation to watch all that take place,” he said.
He counts among his mentors Davin, J.B. Coxwell, Dave Foster, Robert Mickler, Ted Wilson, Chester Skinner and Brightman Skinner Sr. and Howard Korman.
“They unselfishly shared their lifetime experiences,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he is not retiring from the business world. He will be consulting with local and out-of-state law firms on real estate matters and assisting a company that he invested in a few years ago in its manufacturing operations.
“I'm ready to take some risk on my own,” he said.
Wilson said he also has the luxury of his own schedule and spending time with family and friends.