February 29, 2016

Boyle’s 70 Years Have Transformed Memphis

By Deborah M. Chubb
– The Commercial Appeal/Real Estate –

Bayard Boyle Jr. jokes that he joined the family business in 1960 because it was the line of least resistance.

Henry Morgan started in a dungeon-like basement bank vault on Second Street, sorting files for the Boyle family’s insurance business.

Today Boyle and Morgan head a 100 employee family-owned company that in it’s 70 years has reshaped Memphis. And they’re far from done.

As Boyle Investment Co. celebrates its 70th anniversary, the company holds hundreds of acres across Shelby County and is developing hundreds more here and elsewhere in joint ventures and partnerships with landowners.

“It’s really a pretty durn interesting business,” said Boyle, 66, chairman. “You can see it more physically than a lot of other businesses.

“It’s bricks and mortar, and seeing projects from start to finish, that’s really a lot of fun,” said Morgan, 59, president.

A Boyle company hallmark has long been development east of the original city center, first in the Ridgeway area, where they built a 204-acre “city on the edge of the city.”

Recent projects have been big, multi-acre, multi-use, upscale and even farther east; Humphreys Center, formerly an open field along Walnut Grove, and now the 450-acre Schilling Farms in Collierville.

With more than 5 million square feet of developed space in Memphis, their land resources today include more than 30 key properties, including two developments that straddle the Shelby-Fayette county line.

Russell ‘Rusty’ Bloodworth, Jr. joined Boyle after architecture school “and wanted to do new towns,” Boyle said. Instead, considering potential infrastructure costs and zoning issues, the company and Bloodworth, executive vice president, have pushed into large-scale developments that provide different uses to attract people to work, shop, play and live.

“We are developers, but these large-scale projects give us a competitive advantage,” Boyle said.

“They have a lot of vision when it comes to acquiring land for future development,” David Peck, president and chief executive officer of Weston Companies, who competes with Boyle in most phases of office, commercial and retail real estate. “They certainly are one of the leaders that’s able to look at a piece of property and buy 20 to 30 years into the future, and as far as I can tell, they don’t make too many mistakes.”

The company began in 1933 as a partnership of three brothers – Bayard Boyle Sr., Snowden Boyle and Charles Boyle.

They were descendants of John Overton, a founder of Memphis, and of Edward Boyle, their father, who developed the imposing Belvedere Boulevard in the early 1900’s.

Initially the brothers managed foreclosed property for New York Life Insurance Co. and developed commercial and residential loans for other insurance companies.

After World War II, the Boyle firm provided loans for new residential, commercial and industrial developments across the city. The company then expanded beyond financing the land development, leasing property management, sales and insurance.

Boyle clients included Sears, General Electric, General Mills, General Motors and other national concerns. In the late 1940’s, Boyle developed its first residential subdivisions, building and selling homes.

Bayard Boyle Sr. was a genius at identifying and acquiring property for future development, Morgan said. Tracing on a wall map, Morgan drew the arc of land from the Wolf River to Poplar where the company’s first large-scale developments were built.

“He was very influential and had great foresight,” Morgan said.

“He loved riding around and looking at property,” said his son. “We were the only real house when we moved out here. I was 2….”

Through the 1960’s Boyle created River Oaks, Farmington and Kirby Woods and diversified outside Memphis.

Company headquarters were downtown, in a former bank building at Second and Madison.

But when they set out to turn the Ridgeway Golf Course into Ridgeway Office Park, they moved in 1973 into the first building, addressed at 5900 Poplar, where they are today.

Bayard Boyle Jr. was named president in 1971.

Morgan, whose father was a commercial banker and whose uncle ran the Boyle insurance business, survived his summer job in the insurance files, liked the company and went to work for the Boyle mortgage business. He met and married Snow Morgan, Bayard Jr.’s sister, and has spent 34 years in business with his brother-in-law.

Boyle was named chairman and Morgan rose to president in 1985.

Both men credit an expert staff, many with more than 20 years’ experience in the company, for its strength.

Their competitor, Peck, agrees. The company’s people, from Boyle and Morgan to Mark Halperin and senior vice president Joel Fulmer, are “quality individuals and people you can rely on when you ask for information,” Peck said.

“They’ve done a lot for the city, probably as much for development as anyone here. …You can always tell a Boyle project by the landscaping and the quality of the property management they put into their properties.”

Preferring to build and keep projects “a long time,” Morgan said, Boyle has less than 2 million square feet of industrial space, instead concentrating on residential retail and office projects.