B&E Speaker Series

William C. Bayless, Jr.
President, CEO and Co-Founder
American Campus Communities
Monday, September 21, 2015
10:30am, Mountainlair Ballrooms

Bill Bayless is the co-founder, President and CEO of American Campus Communities, Inc., the nation’s largest developer, owner and manager of high quality student housing. Today, more than 130,000 college students call one of American Campus’ 200 plus student properties “home” in more than 80 collegiate markets across America. The company currently has a total enterprise value in excess of $7 billion.

The son and grandson of steelworkers, Bayless was born and raised in the northern panhandle of West Virginia. He started working at the age of 12, mowing lawns and detailing cars. A first generation college student, he attended West Virginia University from 1982 – 1986 graduating from the College of Business and Economics with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Bayless first forged his vision of what would someday become American Campus Communities, while he was still a student at WVU working as a dishwasher, grill cook, night desk attendant, and as a resident assistant at Summit Hall.

In the 1980’s, the mainstream real estate industry avoided student housing – they saw operational risk, undesirable tenants, and a risky investment. This was evidenced by the student slums that existed near many colleges and universities nationwide in the 1980’s. Bayless however, saw students and parents as under-served consumers, worthy of better products and services. He saw the need for, and the opportunity to provide, modern, high quality, well amenitized student communities that could foster an environment conducive to academic achievement.

After his graduation from WVU, Bayless worked to establish student housing divisions within traditional real-estate companies in Columbus, Ohio and Houston, Texas. He found it difficult, as these companies didn’t want to commit the capital and resources necessary to develop the specialized infrastructure and operating platforms geared toward the unique aspects of serving the student market. Nor did these traditional real estate companies have a true appreciation of the importance of creating and maintaining environments that were conducive to academic success.

In 1993, with less than $3,000 in the bank, the 29-year old Bayless moved his wife and two small children to Austin, Texas where he co-founded American Campus. The new company, which had four employees and one third party student housing management contract at inception, soon established an ambitious mission statement: “…to be the nation’s premier provider of quality student housing communities and services, through a unique understanding of, and an unrelenting commitment to: students, parents and educational institutions…” From 1993 to 2003, Bayless grew American Campus into a $250 million enterprise using expensive, New York based venture capital. Once again however, Bayless felt that his vision and the company were being limited by their traditional real estate capital partners - who didn’t truly understand the student consumer or the student the housing business.

In 2004, against great odds, Bayless facilitated the buyout his venture capital partners, and led the student housing industry to a new plateau when American Campus Communities successfully consummated its IPO on the New York Stock Exchange becoming the first publicly traded student housing company in the nation - introducing the sector to Wall Street and mainstreaming student housing as an asset class among institutional investors. This caused a paradigm shift in the overall weighted average cost of capital available to the entire student housing industry.  It also provided the opportunity for Bayless and his management team to freely implement their vision and business plan.

Since its IPO, American Campus has been one of the top performing publicly traded real estate companies in America. The company has averaged a compounded annual growth rate in net operating income in excess of 30%. In addition, the company’s portfolio has achieved average fall occupancy of 97% for the last eleven years and has produced positive same store growth in rental rate, rental revenue and net operating income each and every year, even during the great recession. Since its IPO, ACC stock has delivered a total shareholder return of or more than 225%, outperforming the Morgan Stanley REIT Index, the S&P 500, the Dow Jones and the Nasdaq. Today the company has a total enterprise value in excess of $7 billion.

Beyond the company’s operational success and financial performance, in 2011 American Campus achieved an investment grade rating from both Moody’s and Standard and Poors. In 2013, American Campus received national accolades when the company was named by Forbes as one of “America’s 100 Most Trustworthy Companies.” ACC has also been voted as one of the best companies to work for in its home State of Texas on three separate occasions. 

Bayless is credited with mainstreaming student housing as an asset class within the institutional real estate industry and is widely recognized as the nation’s leading expert in the sector. In 2007, his professional accomplishments were recognized nationally when he was named as a National finalist for the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. He has also been featured in prominent publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and The New York Times; has made numerous appearances on CNBC and has also been featured on ABC’s Nightline.

On the charitable front, Bayless chairs the board, and was instrumental in the formation of, American Campus Charities Foundation; which supports charitable activities focused on disadvantaged youth and education in our hometown of Austin as well as in the local communities served by our properties. The Foundation has raised in excess of $1,000,000 for the causes we support. Bayless also currently serves as a member of the board and chair-elect of the Rise School of Austin serving special needs children.

Bayless is married to his college sweetheart, Jamie Myers Bayless of Weston, WV. They have two grown children and three grandchildren. Bayless has stayed connected to his beloved Alma Mater, WVU. Bill and Jamie are avid Mountaineer fans and supporters of the Mountaineer Athletic Club. In addition, American Campus has served as the developer for Lincoln Hall on the Evansdale Campus, the Honors College on the downtown campus and the new College Park Apartments. The company also owns property in Sunnyside that it is currently developing into a modern 536 bed student community.