By Elizabeth Liberatore / Photos by Mark Morgan
Searching for the perfect place to call home? During your quest, take note of the “for sale” sign outside. One may be attached to luxury, modern condos in the heart of Downtown Phoenix. Others will sit on sprawling estates overlooking vistas in Carefree, Flagstaff, Scottsdale and Tucson. All of these properties are undeniably beautiful but vastly different to fit diverse needs. So what could they possibly all have in common? Their “for sale” sign bears the Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty name.
“Ou hilosoph h am n athe n randfathe am ith, which is our name – Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty – is synonymous with fine properties.”
Jim Lyon is the third generation Lyon to lead the family business. His grandfather founded it in 1947 under the name Russ Lyon Realty Company. In 1968, his father took over and in 2008, Lyon was passed the baton. From grandfather to father to son, the company has built a legacy of trust and long-lasting relationships that extend across decades.
An Arizona native, Lyon pursued his studies of economics and political science in Wildcat territory at University of Arizona. He was never pressured to follow in the footsteps of the men in his family, but his relationship with real estate quickly bloomed after college. He went into commercial real estate before exploring the residential side of things at Russ Lyon Realty Company. Over time and after serving in numerous managerial roles, Lyon knew he was ready to take on his dad’s job as well as expand the business.
Growing up, Lyon recalls how emotionally invested his grandfather and father were in their company and their passion for its success. Russ Lyon Realty Company boomed instantly, but according to Lyon, his two predecessors practiced humility– a tradition Lyon chose to continue on.
“What I really admired is how humble they both were when it came to talking about the success of the company,” he explains.
In 2004, Lyon left the family business to franchise the Russ Lyon name by opening offices in Northern Arizona. He brought with him his childhood friend and business partner, Todd Gillenwater. The duo divided – Gillenwater was the designated broker in Sedona and Lyon in Flagstaff – and conquered. After expanding Arizona’s literal cooler cities, Lyon moved back to Phoenix in 2008 to become chairman and buy out his father who was ready to enjoy retirement.
“Chairma h oar us am adge," Lyon admits. " or id id ith m the artners, u esignate roker, h resident, n l h anager o provid h es o u gent n, ltimately, o u lients."
Since taking over, his primary focus has been expansion via recruiting, opening offices and refining pre-existing services like title and insurance. He also combined Russ Lyon Realty Company with the local Sotheby’s franchise, Equitable Sotheby’s, to create Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty.
“We have always had the same core values and philosophy [as Sotheby's], but now we have 11 offices statewide. In addition to that, Sotheby’s background and resources allow us to market our properties worldwide,” Lyon states.
The company name is not only synonymous with fine properties, but philanthropy as well. Lyon and his business partner decided to create a platform for their agents to give back, which helps harness the human potential in every office, and make a mark in the Valley community. This became known as the Russ Lyon | Charitable Foundation, which was founded in 2014.
“We know we have the manpower and resources to give back, so through our Volunteer Corps (V-Corps), we have helped at food banks, blood drives, done clean water distributions, litter pick-ups and education sponsorship,” Lyon continues, “In our 70 years of business, Russ Lyon has never been more proactive in making a difference.”
Lyon admits that selling real estate in Arizona is easy when you're a born and raised here – he knows the Valley like the back of his hand. He currently resides with his wife, Robin and their two sons, Ben and Jon, in Arcadia.
“I have enjoyed witnessing the growth of the Valley, and all that comes with it. I live in a family friendly neighborhood where friends that I grew up with are raising their families, so it’s a close-knit community,” he explains. “It’s been a great place to raise a family.”
Will Ben and Jon be the fourth generationers to lead the family business? While it might seem as though history is repeating itself (both of the chairman’s sons go to the same public schools he went to growing up) Lyon says that their futures are completely up to them.
“I want my sons to find their own path and follow their passions. If it is meant to be that they follow in my footsteps, then it will be,” he explains.
When he isn’t with his real estate family, Lyon can be found spending quality time with Robin, Ben and Jon. It doesn’t matter what they are doing – fly fishing, traveling the world or planning for their next big adventure – as long as they are doing it together.
“Exercise is also very important to me, so I do a lot of hiking on Piestewa Peak and Camelback. I also love swimming and golfing. Oh, and I couldn’t forget hanging out with my best friend, Randy Warner,” Lyon says.
From 1947 to 2017, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty has a distinct history associated with it and a loyal reputation in the state of Arizona. As the company continues to grow, Lyon promises to stay on the cutting edge by keeping up with the changes in the real estate industry and advancements in technology. He is also making it his mission to keep the company’s tenets, originally set in motion by his grandfather in the late ’40s, as the pulse of Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty, blending professional, trustworthy real estate with a personal touch.
“The best advice my grandfather and father gave me was very simple: return calls as soon as you can and never be late to a meeting. If you know you are going to be late, let the other party known immediately,” Lyon smiles.
To learn more about Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty, visit www.russlyon.com.