Home » How Don Peebles, a Black real estate mogul, built his $700-million empire

How Don Peebles, a Black real estate mogul, built his $700-million empire

Climbing the Ladder: The Remarkable Story of Don Peebles

by Motoni Olodun
Don Peebles

Early Life and Education

Born on March 2, 1960, in Washington, D.C., Roy Donahue “Don” Peebles was the only son of a civil servant and a real estate broker. After his parents’ divorce in 1967, Peebles moved with his mother to Detroit, spending only six months there before returning to Washington, D.C., to live with his father. As a teenager, Peebles worked as a congressional page and attended the United States Capitol Page High School, where he graduated in 1978. He then enrolled in Rutgers University, planning to go into medicine.

Career Beginnings

However, in 1979, Peebles started his real estate career as an appraiser. In three years, he opened his firm and had clients such as the United States Department of Housing & Urban Development and major financial and banking institutions. On Jan. 9, 1983, at the age of 23, he established RDP Corporation, a residential and commercial real estate appraisal firm. Later that year, he was appointed to Washington’s Board of Equalization and Review by Marion Barry, the real estate tax appeals board currently known as the Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals.

The Real Estate Mogul

In 1986, a Peebles-led partnership acquired the site for his first real estate development project: a 100,000-square-foot Class-A office building at 2100 Martin Luther King Ave. SE. In 1989, Peebles established a highly successful commercial tax assessment appeal firm in Washington, D.C. Peebles continued to acquire commercial buildings and development sites in Washington, D.C. in the 1990s, including 10 G Street NE, and the Convention Center Courtyard by Marriott.

In 1995, while on vacation in Miami with his wife and young son, Peebles read an article about Miami’s search for a black developer to develop two old beach hotels, the Shorecrest and the Royal Palm. In early 1997, he decided to take his company, which had developed and/or owned over one million square feet of commercial properties in Washington, D.C., and moved its headquarters to Miami, Florida. Peebles expanded his company, The Peebles Corporation, by crafting hospitality and luxury residential divisions dedicated to the development and ownership of premier hotel and high-end condominium properties. He redeveloped the 1930s Royal Palm Hotel in Miami Beach in 1996, making it the nation’s first major hotel developed and owned by an African-American. Peebles sold the Royal Palm in 2004 for $127.5 million, the highest price for a Miami Beach hotel at the time. Pebbles Corporation’s Portfolio of investments totals over 10 million square feet and $8 billion in gateway cities including Boston, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and San Francisco.

Currently, Pebbles is building The Affirmation Tower, the first skyscraper in New York City built by a majority Black-led team. It will be the second tallest building in the Western hemisphere, towering 1,663 feet and devouring 1.2 acres of Manhattan’s prime West Side real estate, as soon as it is completed. He is also developing Angels Landing,  a $1.6 billion residential, hotel, and retail complex in Downtown Los Angeles. Set to debut in 2024, it will feature an 80-story skyscraper, making it one of the tallest buildings in the Western United States.

Net Worth and Recognition

According to Forbes, Peebles is one of the most successful African-American CEOs. In May 2009, Forbes listed Peebles in the top ten of the wealthiest black Americans, and in January 2015 it estimated his net worth to be over $700 million. In April 2015, Black Enterprise named Peebles as one of the “Business Trailblazers and Titans of Black America: 40 most powerful African Americans in business”.

Giving Back

Peebles has made significant contributions to society through his philanthropic efforts. Peebles is an avid supporter of mentoring underprivileged youth to expose them to the value of entrepreneurship. His success in real estate has provided a national platform for his philanthropic and political activism. He has served as chairman of the board of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and on President Barack Obama’s National Finance Committee. Peebles has also launched an emerging developers fund to finance equity for projects in the $10 million–$50 million range for minority and women-owned real estate companies in the early stages.

Through these efforts, Peebles continues to make a significant impact on society, demonstrating his commitment to economic equality and social justice.


Peebles’ journey from a young real estate appraiser to one of the wealthiest African-American CEOs is a testament to his business acumen, hard work, and determination. His success in the real estate industry has not only contributed significantly to his net worth but also paved the way for other African-American entrepreneurs in the field.

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