Business Hall of Fame: B. Francis Saul II

Building a family company into a banking and real-estate empire.

By: Leslie Milk

Success stories aren’t always told with bold type. Some of the most successful business leaders make their mark with quiet competence and unswerving commitment to their enterprise and their city.

The five business leaders to be inducted into the Washington Business Hall of Fame are just such success stories. As one of the honorees, telecom entrepreneur Jeong Kim, puts it, “I tend to say less and do more.”

The Washington Business Hall of Fame was founded in 1988 by the Greater Washington Board of Trade and The Washingtonian for the benefit of Junior Achievement of the National Capital Area. Each year Junior Achievement sends more than 1,000 volunteers into local classrooms to teach about business, entrepreneurship, and personal finance. The volunteers serve as role models for more than 33,000 kids from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The 2006 laureates will be inducted into the Washington Business Hall of Fame at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on Tuesday, November 28. For information about the Hall of Fame dinner, contact Junior Achievement at 202-296-1200.

B. Francis Saul Ii

When Bernard Francis Saul II graduated from the University of Virginia law school and joined the business his grandfather founded, B.F. Saul was the tenth-largest mortgage-finance company in the Washington area. Young Saul took over the company in 1969.

Today the B.F. Saul Real Estate Investment Trust has holdings in hotels, office buildings, and land, primarily in the Mid-Atlantic region and the Southeast. In 2004, the B.F. Saul REIT had $1.04 billion in revenue. The Saul Centers, a second REIT that owns and operates shopping centers and office buildings, earned $127 million in 2005. The B.F. Saul Hotel division owns 14 hotels in the Washington area—all but two in Virginia.

The first B.F. Saul was a banker as well as a mortgage broker. So is his grandson. He started Chevy Chase Bank “as a hobby,” he says. He heard that a Baltimore savings-and-loan had a bank license but never activated it; Saul bought the license as a personal investment.

“I had to open in a location approved by the Maryland authorities,” he says. The first branch was a trailer in a parking lot on Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase. It was snowing the day the bank opened, Saul recalls. The sign maker couldn’t get his truck out of his driveway, so the bank opened without a sign. A depositer called to say she wanted to put more money in the bank but she wasn’t sure she could find it again.

Chevy Chase Bank is now the area’s largest locally owned bank, with 265 branches and more than $13 billion in assets. “I never imagined it would get this big,” Saul says.

His secret of success? “Any business is just people,” he says, “getting wonderful people and making sure they love what they do. If you love what you do, you’ll be good at it.”

Saul is a community philanthropist. The playing field at the University of Maryland is now the Chevy Chase Bank Field at Byrd Stadium; the bank contributed $20 million to refurbish and expand the stadium. University of Maryland at College Park president C.D. Mote calls Chevy Chase Bank “our number-one recruit.” Saul has been a major contributor to Catholic charities and helped Providence Hospital build a new nursing home.

“The more you give of your time, talents, and energy, you get back tenfold,” Saul says. According to Saul, you can bank on that—preferably at Chevy Chase.