FaceBook IconTwitter LogoYouTube LogoLinkedin IconInstagram IconFlickr Icon

From Backyards to Boardrooms: Greg Geiser Sits Atop a Real Estate Empire

Over a career in construction and real estate development spanning five decades, Greg Geiser (Oklahoma State) built his career by walking through open doors of opportunity.

The journey from his first home renovation while in college to building one of the country's largest real estate development firms is the plot of best-selling novels. 

Mix in that his first boss and mentor was a key figure in the Watergate event, and you've got the script for an epic movie.

"I just always liked building things," said Geiser, who founded Wedgewood Corporation in Redondo Beach, California in 1985.  Even when I was a kid, I loved building treehouses and forts in my backyard."

He finagled his way onto a framing crew at age 16, despite the fact he had no idea how to frame. But he had a builder's sense and the knack for knowing how things fit together.

When Geiser's mom wanted a wood patio built onto the back of their house in Oklahoma City, he built it. Long before YouTube could walk you through the process, he figured it out on his own.

Soon, other neighbors were calling. Geiser bought a 1964 Chevy truck for $50, fixed it up with junkyard parts and mismatched tires, and launched his patio business.

But Geiser knew his dreams were bigger than patios. Back home for summer break from OSU, he found a home for sale in Oklahoma City that needed work – but had potential. He convinced a Sigma Nu brother to put up half the money, and off they went.

"I just thought it'd be fun to buy an old house and tear it apart and fix it back up," Geiser said, admitting neither partner really knew what they were doing.

But they were fast learners, smart builders, and lucky breaks helped along the way. Through a friend of a friend, they got the lumber they needed on credit. They then bartered the lumber scraps to someone who taught them to drywall and got the electricity all hooked up – for free – by nearly setting a neighbor's roof on fire. (That's a story for another day.)

Back at OSU, Geiser earned his degree in Civil Engineering, then headed to the University of California (Los Angeles) for his MBA to learn the other side of construction – management and money. 

"I'd never been out west and had never been on an airplane before I came out to UCLA," laughs Geiser, saying his choice of UCLA was based partly on its proximity to ski slopes.

During a summer internship at a Crocker National Bank, Geiser literally stumbled upon the first Apple Computer, which he found languishing in a box in a back room. No one knew how to use it, so there it sat.

"This is 1981…and they didn't even call it a computer back then," Geiser said. "It was just a thing in a box."

Curious, he taught himself to use it and soon figured out how to compute financial spreadsheets. Geiser, the intern, was soon calculating interest amortization for bankers in minutes instead of days.

"All of a sudden, I became the new guy that created fire." In exchange for his computing skills, he was taught the world of construction loans and real estate transactions.

Entering the "Real World" 

Geiser's early grasp of computers, spreadsheets, and real estate came in handy when he entered the workforce. During his second year at business school, he landed an interview with a real estate development firm in Los Angeles. He soon found himself seated across from HR "Bob" Haldeman, of Watergate notoriety.

When the subject of computers came up, Geiser was ready. "I pulled out my spreadsheets and…boom…I was hired, and it was the end of the interview."

"Bob wanted to be a mentor, and I was a young kid from Oklahoma who needed mentoring," he says. "We just clicked."

A few years later, with the blessing and support of Haldeman, Geiser was ready to launch his own business. He opened Wedgewood Corporation in his spare bedroom, a la Jeff Bezos and his humble start to Amazon in his garage.

Wedgewood's focus was finding distressed properties, renovating then selling them.

Geiser hired a few people to join him at that start, with the stipulation they would not be paid for a while and bring their own desks. 

The financing part, however, was set. Haldeman had agreed to be Geiser's "angel," loaning the upfront money needed to buy, then split the profits in the resale.

Wedgewood started buying properties found mainly through foreclosures, but Geiser shuns the word "flip" to describe his business model.

"I didn't call it a flip, and it wasn't a business," Geiser said.  "I was just a guy having fun with a hammer, and [back then] few people were doing it."

Over the past four decades, Wedgewood outgrew the bedroom and became a billion-dollar business with over 500 employees in Redondo Beach, Calif. To date, it has renovated or rebuilt more than 50,000 properties and now encompasses a vast array of other services related to real estate.

But real estate re-development remains its core. Geiser said he's revitalized declining neighborhoods, turning former drug dens into homes filled with families. He's converted rundown apartment complexes into functioning, vibrant communities. 

The dozens of "fix up and sell" programs on television make the process seem easy – instant results and profits in 60 minutes. The real work is hard, and Geiser estimates he loses money about 20% of the time. But he's okay with that.

"To me, it is the sense of restoration and rebirth," he explains. "You turn something that's dying into something that's bright and alive."

The Impact of Sigma Nu

Geiser runs his business with the same ideals he learned from his upbringing and the lessons learned in his days as a Sigma Nu at OSU. He fondly recalls the sense of brotherhood and the community of men who served each other and their communities. 

"Being part of Sigma Nu had meaning, and we carry it forward today," Geiser said, the father of two grown daughters with wife Nancy, a University of Oklahoma grad. "I know if I ever needed anything, [my brothers] would drop everything, no questions, and show up. I would do the same."

He said the structure and expectations as a Sigma Nu made young men the older men they eventually become. 

"We had a house mom, we had rules, we had manners," Geiser says. "The brothers went on to be doctors and lawyers, politicians and pillars of the community…and I was just honored to be a part of it."

Recently Geiser was honored as the top Blazing 10 honoree by OSU for 2021. The honor recognizes the ten highest revenue-generating OSU Cowboy-owned or Cowboy-led businesses each year.

© 2015-2021 Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.
9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-1869 | Fax: (540) 463-1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

FaceBook IconTwitter LogoYouTube LogoLinkedin IconInstagram IconFlickr Icon