Industry icon Wes Foster, co-founder of Long & Foster, has died
Wes Foster, known for his integrity and "larger than life presence," said he was most proud of growing Long & Foster from humble beginnings into a major player.
Real estate legend Paul W. "Wes" Foster Jr., co-founder and chairman emeritus of The Long & Foster Companies, has died. He was 89.
"For half a century, Wes was an industry icon who created a mega real estate brokerage with the highest integrity," said Stefan Swanepoel, chairman of the T3 Sixty family of companies, which includes Real Estate News. "The industry salutes Wes. We will miss his larger-than-life presence. Our love and prayers to all his loved ones."
Born in McDonough, Ga., on Nov. 25, 1933, Foster received a partial football scholarship to attend Virginia Military Institute, where he earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1956. In 2006 the VMI football stadium was named in his honor in recognition of his donations to fund its renovation.
Foster served as an artillery officer in Germany before returning to the United States and beginning his career in sales, first aluminum siding and then new houses for a developer. That's where he met Hank Long and the two founded their eponymous company in 1968.
Foster told the Washington Business Journal that the pair "flipped a coin" to determine which name would come first. "He got his name first. I became president. We took off."
From a 600-square foot, hard-to-find office behind a drugstore in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. the pair launched with a single agent. Today, the company has about 10,000 agents working in the District of Columbia and eight eastern states, stretching from South Carolina to New Jersey.
The company, which recently confirmed changes to its senior leadership, tallied $36 billion in sales in 2021, according to its website. And it has grown to include mortgage and settlement services, moving and insurance products to provide an integrated experience.
"I'm most proud of building the company to the size it is now," he told the Washington Business Journal when receiving its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. "We never had any idea we would grow to this size. The other thing that I'm awfully proud of is we have a good reputation for honesty and ethics and I want that to continue."
While Long focused on commercial real estate, Foster's specialty was residential. When investment firm Merrill Lynch approached them to buy the company in 1979, Long was ready to sell, Foster told the Washington Post in 1988. "Hank really wanted to sell to Merrill Lynch, to take that money and for both of us to go be developers," Foster told The Post. "I told him, 'Gosh, I liked this crazy business.'"
Foster bought Long out and Long went on to become a commercial developer. He died in 2020.
In 2017, a year shy of the company's 50th anniversary, HomeServices of America, Inc., acquired Long & Foster, keeping the name and installing Foster as chairman emeritus.
"It's bittersweet," Foster told The Post at the time. "But Warren Buffett is a fine, honest gentleman and he will do well by this company and treat our agents well."
Survivors include his wife, Betty Foster, a son, Paul Wesley Foster III, a daughter, Amanda Foster Spahr and a stepson, Rod Lawrence.