Philip J. Reilly will retire Dec. 31 as president of Mission Viejo Realty Group after nearly 20 years at the helm of the huge development firm he helped start in 1963, company officials announced Tuesday.
Mission Viejo Co. President James Gilleran will succeed Reilly as chief executive officer of the realty group, which oversees development activities both in Orange County and at the company's 22,000-acre Highland Ranch project near Denver.
Reilly's retirement was announced in a terse written statement from Philip Morris Companies Inc., which purchased the Mission Viejo Co. in 1972.
Reilly, 57, refused to expand on the written statement.
"I have had the pleasure of participating in this company's growth for over 20 years," he said in the statement. "While I look forward with great pleasure to a continuing relationship with Philip Morris, I am ready to set some new personal goals and will spend the next several months doing just that."
Reilly, who moved to Denver four years ago, will continue to serve on the Mission Viejo Realty Group's board of directors and plans to advise Philip Morris on real estate matters.
"During Philip Reilly's stewardship, Mission Viejo has grown and prospered," Hamish Maxwell, Philip Morris chairman and chief executive officer, said in the statement. "I am pleased that he will remain on Mission Viejo's board of directors and act as a consultant."
Former Orange County Supervisor Bruce Nestande, who worked with Reilly for the past 15 years, called the retiring executive "one of the pioneers of his field."
"I think it's fair to say he was a forerunner in the Western United States, at least, in building quality, planned communities," said Nestande, who became a vice president of Arnel Development after his resignation last January.
Mission Viejo Co. was formed in 1963 to develop the 10,000-acre planned community of Mission Viejo, which was carved out of the huge Rancho Mission Viejo just north of San Juan Capistrano along Interstate 5.
Philip Morris, which is based in New York, bought a major interest in the company in 1970, and in 1972 the Mission Viejo Co. became a wholly owned operating company of the huge conglomerate.
That led the way for expansion that included the 22,000-acre Highland Ranch project and the 6,600-acre Aliso Viejo development just across Interstate 5 from Mission Viejo.
Tony Moiso, president of Santa Margarita Co., was a co-owner of Mission Viejo Co. with Reilly and three others when the company was sold in 1972. Reilly, he said Tuesday, "taught us this community development business."
'Took Me Under His Wing'
"He took me under his wing in 1965 when I got out of the Army and imparted to me the principles of how to do business and how to be in the land business," Moiso said. "Now that he's retiring, maybe he can teach me how to get out."
Reilly joined the Mission Viejo Co. as an executive vice president shortly after its formation in 1963. He was elected president in 1967. In 1983, he moved to Denver to help implement the company's 30-year plan to develop 12,000 acres of the 22,000-acre Highlands Ranch in southeast Denver.