John Arrillaga Sr., the real estate developer who literally converted Silicon Valley from orchards into computer office parks and became a significant supporter to Stanford University, died on Monday in Portola Valley, Calif., at the age of 91. He was 84 years old.
His death was revealed by his daughter, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, in a post on the Medium platform. His family refused to provide a reason for his death.
Beginning in the 1960s, Mr. Arrillaga transformed Silicon Valley’s idyllic countryside into a huge network of corporate campuses under the direction of his son. At the time, the semiconductor industry was exploding in the Santa Clara Valley, with businesses such as Intel expanding as rapidly as they could locate new facilities to house its employees and facilities.
In order to satisfy this demand, Mr. Arrillaga and his business partner, Richard Peery, purchased thousands of acres of farmland in the surrounding areas of California cities such as Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and San Jose, as well as other locations. Creating complexes of low-slung concrete structures that were both inexpensive and simple to construct was something they did even before securing tenants.
In the end, they were responsible for the construction of more than 20 million square feet of commercial real estate. Many of those projects were home to technology giants, like Intel, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, and Google, to name a few.
As the value of the homes increased, Mr. Arrillaga and Mr. Peery became billionaires as a result. Mr. Arrillaga’s net worth was estimated by Forbes to be $2.5 billion.
As the IT sector flourished and the population of Silicon Valley increased, some people started to voice their objections to the expansion of the area. Several of Mr. Arrillaga’s projects have encountered roadblocks, including those who objected to the projected height of 100-foot office buildings in Palo Alto and others who objected to the site of a new library in Menlo Park.
Later in life, Mr. Arrillaga was also responsible for the physical transformation of Stanford University, which he had attended on a basketball scholarship. A total of more than 200 projects and structures at the institution were funded by his contributions, which included at least nine buildings and rooms carrying his family’s name as well as 57 scholarships. In 2013, he made a promise to Stanford of $151 million, making it the single greatest contribution to the institution ever made by a single live contributor.
He was born on April 3, 1937, in the California city of Inglewood. A professional soccer player in his father’s younger days, Gabriel went on to work in the Los Angeles produce market after retiring from the game. Freda, his mother, worked as a nurse.
Mr. Arrillaga attended Stanford University from 1955 to 1957, where he majored in geography. Despite his height of 6 feet 4 inches, he led the basketball team while still working several jobs to help pay for his expenditures.
When he graduated in 1960, he briefly played professional basketball for the San Francisco Warriors for six weeks, according to Fortune magazine, however there is no evidence that he ever participated in a game. After that, he worked in commercial real estate for the rest of his life.
In 1966, he and Mr. Peery founded the real estate company Peery Arrillaga, which has been in business for more than 50 years now.. Their 12 million-square-foot portfolio was sold for $1.1 billion to a real estate investment branch of Deutsche Bank in 2006, representing almost half of their total holdings.
Upon graduation from Stanford, Mr. Arrillaga met and married Frances Marion Cook, a sixth-grade teacher and fellow Stanford alumna. They were the parents of two children. She passed away in 1995 due to lung cancer. In 2003, he tied the knot with Gioia Fasi, a former attorney from Honolulu.
In addition to his daughter, his wife, as well as his son, John Jr., two sisters, Alice Arrillaga Kalomas and Mary Arrillaga Danna, a brother, William Arrillaga, and four grandchildren, survive him. He was predeceased by his wife, who survives him.
After his daughter, who is a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, married Marc Andreessen, a venture investor and Netscape pioneer, Mr. Arrillaga’s links to the technology business got even stronger in 2006.
Mr. Arrillaga started making minor gifts to Stanford shortly after receiving his bachelor’s degree. By the early 2000s, his contributions to the school, which went mostly to the sports department, had risen to more than $80 million, according to school records. In 2006, he made a $100 million gift to Stanford, which was the greatest single contribution in history until he surpassed it in 2013 with a gift of $200 million.
Since 2004, Mr. Arrillaga has rebuilt and provided funds for practically all of Stanford’s sporting facilities, including the Maples Pavilion in 2004 and Stanford Stadium, which he renovated again in 2005 and 2006 with his own money. Due to the prominence of the Arrillaga name on campus — which can be seen on the Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center, the Arrillaga Family Dining Commons, and both campus gyms — students have called the gyms “Nearrillaga” and “Farrillaga” to distinguish them.
Mr. Arrillaga, who shied away from media exposure and interviews, established a reputation for meticulous attention to detail in his building projects.
Ms. Arrillaga-Andreessen noted in her Medium article that when renovating Stanford’s football stadium, “he picked every single palm tree, worked out the optimal shape for every structural piece, and produced his own designs for the seats.”
The narrator continued by saying that he was well-known on campus for “personally cleaning up every single item of rubbish that he encountered and rearranging single stones in fountains across the school.”