HAPPY FRIDAY, P.O.U.!!
We continue our series on African American Hoteliers…
R. DONAHUE PEEBLES
Roy Donahue “Don” Peebles (born March 2, 1960) is a real-estate entrepreneur, author and political activist. Peebles is the chairman and chief executive officer of the Peebles Corp., the largest African-American real-estate development and ownership company in the US, with a multi-billion-dollar development portfolio of luxury hotels, high-rise residential and commercial properties in Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and Miami Beach. Peebles’ company has previously owned property near San Francisco in California.
Peebles and his firm have been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Black Enterprise, Ebony, The Miami Herald, CNBC, ABC and he appears regularly as a guest host or commentator on CNBC, CNN and Fox to advise on real estate, economic and political issues. In May 2009, Forbes listed Peebles in the top ten of the wealthiest black Americans. Fortune magazine has estimated his wealth at $350 million.
Peebles was born in Washington, D.C. to Ruth Yvonne Willoughby and Roy Donahue Peebles Sr. His grandfather was a doorman at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel  in Washington D.C. Peebles has said that assisting his father as car mechanic while still a child contributed to his strong work ethic. At the age of eight, Peebles moved to Detroit, where he spent five years until returning to Washington D.C. and completed high-school while serving as a Congressional Page.
In 1979, after completing his freshman year as a premed student at Rutgers University —he did not complete his degree— Peebles became a real estate sales agent and appraiser in Washington, D.C. On January 9, 1983, at the age of 23, he established RDP Corporation, a residential and commercial real estate appraisal firm. Later that year, he was appointed to Washington’s Board of Equalization and Review, the real estate tax appeals board currently known as the Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals. One year later, when Peebles was 24, Washington’s Mayor Marion Barry appointed him Chairperson of the Board where he served until 1988. Throughout the 1980s, Peebles hosted numerous political fundraisers for local mayoral, city council and presidential candidates.
Peebles developed a 100,000-square-foot (9,300 m2) Class-A office building at 2100 Martin Luther King Ave. SE. The building was the first new major commercial building built in the Anacostia section of Washington, D.C. in decades. Peebles was 27 when the project broke ground.
During the early to mid 1990s, Peebles acquired commercial buildings and development sites in Washington, D.C. In 1990, Peebles founded RDP Assessment Appeals Services, a Washington-based commercial tax assessment appeals firm.
In the early 1990s, Washington Business Journal wrote an article citing Peebles as one of the “top fundraisers” in the city. He and his wife hosted fundraisers for mayoral candidates of New York City and Atlanta, the Governor of Maryland, and numerous congressional candidates. Peebles was invited to Arkansas to attend the economic summit held during the Clinton-Gore transition period.
Peebles moved to Florida and opened an office in Miami after a property deal worth $48 million collapsed. He began working on a public-private partnership with the City of Miami Beach. Two years later, he relocated his corporate headquarters to Miami. The projects included the Royal Palm Hotel, a 420-room and suite ocean-front resort consisting of three towers, in the heart of Miami Beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Other Miami projects include The Residences at The Bath Club, a luxury residential tower.
In November 2010, Peebles’ company was sued by D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles for alleged overbilling; Peebles says the charges are politically motivated.
Peebles is currently considering building a casino in Philadelphia and owns a majority stake in the Mardi Gras Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
In 2004, Peebles was elected as chairman of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and has been recognized by various organizations for his leadership and innovation. Also in 2004, the Peebles Corporation was recognized by Black Enterprise as “Company of the Year.”
He has received numerous awards over the last 25 years for his entrepreneurial leadership, community service efforts and development abilities. Peebles’ most recent awards include Entrepreneur of the Year presented by Rev. Jesse Jackson at the 11th annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit; Corporate Citizen Award from One Hundred Black Men of New York; the NV Award for Entrepreneurship; the Hennessy Privilege Award for extraordinary community contributions; induction to the Martin Luther King International Board of Renaissance Leaders Hall of Fame at Morehouse College in Atlanta; the Reginald F. Lewis Award for Entrepreneurship; and Corporate Honoree at Amsterdam News’ 100th Anniversary Gala alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Congressman Charles Rangel and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Peebles has also been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Johnson & Wales University and Sojourner-Douglass College.
Peebles is a lifelong Democrat but has demonstrated his independence by challenging Democratic leaders on key issues such as taxes. At the age of 14, he volunteered for Council of the District of Columbia Chair Sterling Tucker’s campaign during the summer of 1974. From 1976 to 1978, Peebles attended the United States Capitol Page School at the Library of Congress. He served as a page, a legislative intern in the office of Representative Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif) and served as a staff aide to Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich). Peebles also formed a relationship with Representative Charles Rangel during this time.
The Peebles have supported various congressional, mayoral and gubernatorial candidates over the years. In 1992, he hosted Presidential hopeful and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton in his home for a fundraiser. Peebles serves as a member of President Barack Obama’s National Finance Committee where he established himself as one of the campaign’s leading fundraisers in the nation. Peebles hosted President Obama at his home in Washington D.C. for a campaign fundraiser on August 8, 2011.
In 2010, he considered running to become mayor of Washington, but he decided against a run due to his mother-in-law’s illness. Peebles’ mother-in-law died later that year.
Peebles moved to New York City in September 2011 and maintains residences in Coral Gables, Bridgehampton and Washington D.C. His wife Katrina, whom he married in 1994, is a former PR executive and model that serves on the Board of Directors of the Peebles Corporation. His children, a son and a daughter, live in New York City. His son currently attends Columbia University and his daughter is a top equestrian competitor.