Founding Families: From $5000 Bet to 10M SF Portfolio

September 25, 2015 News

At the turn of the century, Ben J. Massell made a $5k bet on a piece of property in the City of Atlanta that grew into Selig Enterprises, which today controls some 10M SF of commercial real estate. As former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Sr. put it in 1961, “Sherman burned Atlanta and Ben Massell built it back.” Ben was—according to another famous Atlanta mayor, William Hartsfield—a “one-man boom.”


Ben came from a Lithuanian family that immigrated to the US and opened a grocery store in Atlanta. It was a short-lived enterprise; by 1918, Ben had launched a commercial real estate shop with the purchase of that first parcel. Soon it was apparent he had a knack for real estate, developing storefronts and commercial buildings throughout Atlanta, which was discovering its power as an economic engine. At the same time, the Selig side of the family arrived in the US from Germany, setting up a chemical business here. These two families would not become one until 1939, when Steve’s father, Simon “Slick” Selig, married Ben’s daughter, Caroline Massell.

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