Real Estate: Barry D. Mann

By Irwin Speizer

Ask Barry Mann to tell you something about himself, and the first thing he says is that he has great hair. Indeed he does, a fine mane of graying blond locks. But it isn’t his hair so much as his response that helps explain his success as a real-estate lawyer. His joking invites casual conversation. Once all parties are at ease, more serious matters can be discussed.

His affability and skill at handling people has helped get deals done for developers such as Ed White, president and owner of White Ventures in Raleigh. “I have had him sit down with property owners who are just ornery as hell, fighting within the family. He takes time to sit down with them one at a time. He is one of the few who can sit down with them and have them come away feeling good about it, and you can get done what you need to get done.”

Case in point: In 2002, he wrapped up five years of work for another developer assembling a 25-acre tract near the RBC Center in Raleigh. The deal involved 30 property owners, including heirs of original owners living as far away as Italy. Along the way, there were several lawsuits among family members and squabbles that got so bitter that one relative leveled a shotgun on another. Through it all, Mann kept them talking and got all to sign contracts totaling $6 million. The land is now covered with apartments and town houses. “I thought they were just regular folks. They were folks who sometimes didn’t like each other, who sometimes had unreasonable demands, who sometimes were difficult to deal with. But they were the types of people I grew up with.”

Born in Morehead City, the sixth of seven children, he was reared in nearby Newport. He is the only one of his siblings to graduate from college. His father, a purchasing agent at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, emphasized the importance of hard work and self-reliance. Mann got his first job, pruning tobacco plants, at age 12 and held at least a summer job thereafter. All that work convinced him that a desk job wasn’t a bad idea and that a college education could get him one.

At UNC Chapel Hill, he enjoyed an undergraduate class in business law and later enrolled in its law school, where his favorite courses were in real-estate law. He joined Manning Fulton & Skinner in Raleigh after graduation and never left. But he didn’t talk his way into the job. “Barry had the highest grade in his class,” partner Charles Fulton says. “That is why I hired him.”

At first, he did residential closings but quickly branched into development and commercial real estate. He specializes in helping developers negotiate, structure and close land deals. “I am often involved in virtually every stage of development of a piece of dirt. But my practice is diverse. I have represented clients from big corporations like GE all the way down to my next-door neighbor.”

Much of his work now is with about a dozen developers who work mostly in the Triangle. He has spent five years assembling 105 acres for White’s Town Hall Commons development — which will include stores, offices and homes — in Morrisville. Construction will take about five years, and Mann expects to handle lease agreements and sales.

He also keeps his hand in residential closings and small transactions. Mann represents about 300 clients in a typical year. “My receptionist told me I get more phone calls than anybody else in the firm. I often have one on hold while I talk to another one and I am getting two e-mails about two other matters. At the end of a day, I may have worked on a dozen different matters.”