Edward St. John, 81, is the CEO and founder of St. John Properties, a successful Maryland-based commercial real estate firm in the Mid-Atlantic region that owns 19 million square feet of property across eight states valued at more than $3.5 billion. St. John celebrated the companies success in 2019 by surprising his employees with $10 million.
St. John announced the $10 million bonus in a video at the St. John Properties company party on Tuesday night. The money will be split among the company’s 198 employees. The amount averages out to about $50,000 per employee.
“To celebrate the achievement of our goal, we wanted to reward our employees in a big way that would make a significant impact on their lives,” St. John said. “I am thankful for every one of our employees for their hard work and dedication. I couldn’t think of a better way to show it.”
“Without the team, we are nothing.” He added.
The bonuses were awarded after the company hit its goal of developing 20 million square feet of office, flex/R&D, retail and warehouse space in eight states this year. Their properties include large suburban projects like Maple Lawn in Howard County, Crossroads at Greenleigh in Middle River, Baltimore Gateway on Koppers Street, and the Business Center at Owings Mills.
The holiday party in Baltimore, MD started out like any other with live music, champagne, and eclectic food stations. Towards the end of the event, every employee was handed a red envelope that held their surprise bonuses.
A video from the holiday party shows the employees’ shocked reactions as they open the envelopes and realize how much money is inside. Several employees have their hands over their mouth in shock and are crying and embracing one another Only five people knew about the bonus before the celebration, the company said.
“I still haven’t absorbed it,” said Nikki Goode, the real estate firm’s director of taxation, in a company video. “I’m shocked, very thankful.”
“it is life-changing.” Danielle Valenzia, an Accounts Payable Specialist at St. John’s Properties, said through tears at the event, “It is, it’s really amazing, Ed is so generous.”
“We heard things such as ‘I’m buying a new Corvette’, ‘I’m debt-free for the first time in my life’, it literally brought tears to our eyes.” Lawrence Maykrantz, St. John’s Properties President told NBC News.
Edward St. John was born and raised in Baltimore and attended the University of Maryland. He started St. John’s Properties in 1971 and has grown it into one of the most successful real estate firms in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Edward St. John Took over the Family Business at 16 Years Old When His Father Passed Away
As a kid, St. John wanted to be a military test pilot until tragedy struck. “I had aspirations of becoming a military test pilot.” He said in a donation announcement to the University of Maryland Medical System, “When entering the University of Maryland College Park, I went to the head of the Air Force ROTC and asked what degree would help me to be a test pilot in the Air Force. I was told electrical engineering, which was the degree I signed up for.”
St. John’s father was an entrepreneur who had three small businesses, a company that manufactured building materials, a company that distributed them, and a third that owned five, 10,000 square foot commercial buildings. He passed away when Edward was 16.
“As I was about to graduate from Maryland, my mother told me that I needed to give up the flying foolishness and run the family businesses or they would be sold. The one aspect of business that I liked was working with the tenants. The rest is history.” He recalled.
St. John sold the business material manufacturing and distribution businesses and focused on real estate. He partnered with a local developer by the name of Leroy Merritt and the two built an empire.
2. His Foundation Has Donated over $60 MIllion to Charity
St. John and the Edward St. John Foundation have a long history of giving back to the community, contributing more than $60 million in grants to formal education programs since 1998. St. John is an ardent supporter of increasing access to education and providing students with opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
“Education is what changes people,” St. John said in a recent interview with The Baltimore Sun. “What makes the difference between the man who makes minimum wage and the man who makes $100,000? It’s education.”
St. John donated $10 million to his alma mater, the University of Maryland, to fund the construction of the 187,000 square foot Edward St. John Teaching and Learning Center. Other donations include $1 million toward the construction of a state of the art Space Center and Planetarium on the campus of Central Elementary School in Pleasant Grove, UT and opening the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center at The Crossroads School which currently serves 162 students in 6th through 8th grades in Baltimore, MD.
3. He Said He “Plays Monopoly” for a Living and Doesn’t Ever Plan on Retiring
Despite being 81 years old, St. John does not plan on retiring any time soon. He says that what others view as “work” is what he genuinely enjoys doing. The commercial real estate industry is like “Monopoly” to him.
“I’m never retiring,” he said in an interview with the Baltimore Sun. “Why would I? I don’t work. I play Monopoly with real buildings and real money. Why hang around with a bunch of old guys and play golf? I sit around with young guys and play real Monopoly.”
4. He’s Married to Local Baltimore News Anchor Jennifer Gilbert
St. John married Local Baltimore Fox 45 news anchor Jennifer Gilbert, 51, earlier this year. Gilbert announced the wedding during a news broadcast in October, “I wanted to let you know I’m going to be off for a few days. I’m getting married on Saturday.” According to the Baltimore Sun.
She announced the wedding in an August Facebook post where she wrote, ““I have some news to share with you. I’ve been spending some time lately—shopping for a wedding dress. I’m getting married in October. I am over the moon with happiness, and filled with gratitude for God’s blessing of love.”
Gilbert told the Baltimore Sun the ceremony took place in Jupiter, FL and was an “intimate ceremony of 12 guests, mostly immediate family,” Following the wedding, Gilbert and St. John spent a few days yachting on the Chesapeake Bay and have an extended honeymoon planned for the spring, a luxury cruise to the Arabian Peninsula and the Mediterranean.
5. He Was Named ‘CEO of the Year’ in 2019
Edward St. John was awarded “CEO of the Year” by the Baltimore Business Journal in 2019, a “lifetime achievement award honoring his many decades of success in real estate and philanthropy,” according to the publication.
“So it’s fitting that we recognize Edward St. John as our 2019 CEO of the Year, a lifetime achievement award honoring his many decades of success in real estate and philanthropy.” The Baltimore Business Journal wrote in a press release.
St. John won a slew of other awards including, “2012 Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year” for the State of Maryland, “Maryland Entrepreneur of the Year,” and “Developer of the Year” in 2018 from NAIOP, a national commercial real estate association. He was the second developer from Maryland to ever win the award.