Jon Douglas dies at 73; top Stanford athlete ran major Westside real estate brokerage

Jon Douglas, a two-sport athlete at Stanford University whose residential brokerage was a major real estate player beginning in the 1970s, has died. He was 73.

Douglas died in his sleep Tuesday at his home in Brentwood, his family said. No cause was given.

Jon Douglas Co. had become one of the biggest brokerages in the country by 1997 when it was bought by Coldwell Banker.

“He was an exceptional guy … an inspirational character,” Dan Emmett, his longtime real estate partner, told The Times this week.

Douglas also was so accomplished in tennis and other sports that in 1984 Times columnist Jim Murray called him “as good a 5-foot-9 athlete as any state ever produced.”

Jon Alexander Douglas was born Sept. 10, 1936, in Hot Springs, Ark., the only child of Dortha and Gordon Douglas. The family moved to Santa Monica in 1944 and Jon became a star athlete at Santa Monica High.

He was an all-CIF quarterback and also played tennis and basketball. He represented the United States three times in Davis Cup competitions (1958, 1960-61) and at Stanford University was a two-time tennis All-American and a quarterback on the football team. He started at quarterback during his senior season of 1957 and led Stanford to a winning season.

He graduated from Stanford with a bachelor’s degree in history, served three years in the Marine Corps and then started working in real estate.

In 1971, Douglas and Emmett co-founded Douglas Emmett Inc. Each of them put up $7,500 to start developing apartment houses on the Westside.

Because profits initially were hard to come by, Douglas started the residential real estate brokerage on the side “to get some cash we could live on,” he told The Times in 2008. Jon Douglas Co., which merged with Prudential in 1995, had nearly 70 offices by 1997.

Douglas “had a personal influence on everyone who joined the company,” Emmett said. “He led by enthusiasm and example. In some ways he was our best salesperson.”

Fred Sands, whose company had been Douglas’ rival, told The Times that Douglas “was a fierce competitor” in a “highly competitive business.... He was a smart guy.”

Betty Graham, president of Coldwell’s greater L.A.-area residential brokerage, said she was recruited by Douglas in 1982. “I still feel that I work for him,” she said this week. “Jack was a very competitive spirit. He inspired us to be better, work harder.”

Douglas is survived by four sons, Brad, James, Jon Jr. and Mark; and six grandchildren. His marriage to Sue Ellen Wylie ended in divorce. Services will be private.