Through sheer determination and an innate disposition for hard work, Sean J. Conlon is the embodiment of what it means to achieve the American dream.
An Irish immigrant hailing from the small village of Rathangan in County Kildare, Sean came to the states in 1990 with an education from the Dublin Institute of Technology’s College of Marketing and Design, a two-year stint at Lehman Brothers in London and an insatiable appetite for business. Though his beginnings working as a janitor in the U.S. were humble, it wasn’t long before the future real estate mogul took his first step towards hard-won success.
In 1993, Sean joined one of Chicago’s top real estate firms at the time, and within only a few short years, he had made a name for himself as one of the most prolific sellers of residential real estate throughout not only Chicagoland and the Midwest, but also the entire U.S. with sales approaching $200 million annually. Sean’s unique penchant for recognizing potential business connections and later nurturing them into a fruitful enterprise has been one of the cornerstones of his success in the industry beginning with his founding of Conlon & Co., a real estate merchant bank, in early 2000.
Conlon & Co. is an established, boutique real estate investment firm providing clients with custom-tailored solutions across a suite of services from financing to portfolio and fund management to advisory and co-investment opportunities. Leveraging Sean’s unrivaled network of curated, long-term relationships and experiences enables the company to provide clients with return driven results for all of their real estate needs. Conlon & Co founded and managed two successful investments funds: a $100 million mezzanine lending fund which provided financing on over $1 billion of development projects as well as a $50 million real estate opportunity which acquired distressed property in Chicago and the Southeast during the 2008 – 2011 economic crisis.
Sussex & Reilly (“Sussex”) was also launched in early 2000. Starting as a modest, 10-person operation, Sussex quickly grew, expanding into a 300-plus-employee business accounting for more than $1 billion in annual sales. It was hailed as one of the most high-tech firms in real estate with every agent carrying a blackberry or palm pilot. Sean sold the firm, bought it back and then subsequently re-sold the company between 2006 and 2007. This allowed him to pursue other real estate and development ventures, chiefly among them, CONLON: A Real Estate Company (“CONLON”).
In 2009, Sean opened the doors to CONLON, what would soon become one of Chicago’s most impressive brokerages. The firm, like many of Sean’s past endeavors, proved an almost immediate success, attracting buyers and sellers from the immediate area, as well as other parts of the U.S. and abroad.
The brokerage proved so successful, in fact, that in June 2013, Christie’s International Real Estate, one of globe’s most exclusive real estate networks, aligned themselves with CONLON to help bolster their business to the uppermost echelons of the Chicago market. Most recently, in early 2018 CONLON was approached once again to align with an impressive network and was proud to announce their merger with Compass. Compass is building the first modern real estate platform, pairing the industry’s top talent with technology to make the search and sell experience intelligent and seamless. Known for being the most innovative, tech-forward real estate company in the marketplace, the Compass aim is to have 20 percent market share in the 20 largest U.S. markets by 2020.
In 2016, Sean was asked to be the host for CNBC’s newest original series “The Deed” which explores a side of real estate that other property shows ignore—an unflinching look at how fortunes are really made in the unpredictable and cutthroat world of real estate flipping and development. In the show, Sean provides developers a lifeline by offering them his own cash and expertise in exchange for a piece of the property and a percentage of the profits.
In 2017 Sean launched Conlon Capital, which focuses on commercial real estate lending to offer a wider range of services, compete with larger firms, and capitalize on a strong local market and choice opportunities nationwide. Leveraging his extensive lending relationships and deep-rooted client and equity sponsor relationships, his newest company is able offer the best-in-class financial solutions to meet all of our client’s capital stack needs.
Recognized as one of the top real estate experts in the country, Sean is regularly interviewed by CNN, CNBC (appearing on Squawk Box and Power Lunch), New York Times, Forbes, Crain’s, and the Wall Street Journal, to name a few, to discuss the market and trends within the real estate industry. He was featured in Crain’s “40 under 40”; awarded Irish America’s Business 100 profile four years running; and was honored to be guest speaker at The Wharton School of Business on entrepreneurship and leadership as well as Cornell and DePaul Universities. A former college dropout, Sean is constantly striving for excellence and setting himself high personal standards. He returned to the academic world and in June 2016 graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelor of Arts.
Sean is actively involved in philanthropic and civic causes, most prominently he established The Conlon Wildlife Foundation to aid animal rescue worldwide.