People in real estate are often referred to as top performers. But Larry Connor, managing partner of Ohio-based real estate company The Connor Group, is setting new standards for this stereotype.
In the next few months, Connor will try to be the first person within a year to explore both the ocean floor and fly into space. Only two other people have ever traveled to the Mariana Trench and into space before – NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan and private astronaut Richard Garriott.
The task is daunting, but it won’t be the first time that Connor lets ambition and curious spirit lead him to the achievement of an outstanding goal. Connor has piloted over 16 different types of aircraft, taken extreme rafting tours in places like the Himalayas, and impressive peaks in his climbing activities like Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Aside from these extracurricular activities, Connor has embarked on a variety of business activities throughout his career. His entrepreneurial endeavors varied from car salesman to travel consultant to tavern owner and ultimately as a partner in his own real estate company.
EYOS Expeditions, a deep-sea specialty company, reached out to Connor shortly after announcing its AX-1 mission to explore the Challenger Deep and Sirena Deep of the Mariana Trench and asked him if he would be interested in covering some of the cost of the upcoming one Mission in return for being a co-pilot.
Conor travels to Guam on Monday and begins the first dive to the Challenger Deep on Wednesday or Thursday in the DSV-Limiting Factor (Deep Submergence Vehicle) of the submarine, whose cabin is about four and a half feet wide and four and a half feet tall, at two To fit passengers. A few days later, the team will dive into the Sirena Deep. The Challenger Deep and the Sirena Deep are the first and third deepest known locations on earth.
At the beginning of 2022, Connor will then take part in the first private mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Connor will serve as a pilot on the SpaceX Crew Dragon 10-day mission, which will include three additional crew members.
While preparing for his trip, Inman was able to catch up with Connor to learn more about what drives him in his exploits. Here’s what he had to say.
Inman News: What drives you to become the first person to fly both in space and on the ocean floor in a year?
Larry Connor: I would say there are a couple of things – exploration, for sure, the ability to go out and explore, that has always interested me. But the second thing that is also important is potentially groundbreaking research with no guarantees. So I just don’t want to go ahead just to keep going, I want there to hopefully be some value to what we’re going to do. And I think that both the mission to the ISS and the dive in the Mariana Trench have great potential.
Could you elaborate a little more on what kinds of things you all hope to find?
Let’s be clear – I’m not a scientist or an expert, but what I have learned about the Mariana Trench is that the vast majority of not just from Challenger Deep, which is where we make the first dive, but also from Sirena Deep, where we are make the second dive are largely unexplored, especially in the case of Sirena Deep, where there were literally only two people. So this is going to be a long dive, 14 or 15 hours, and we are going to map and explore the bottom. What do we hope to find, you would have to ask the scientists and experts again, but I was told that we will have the opportunity to find perhaps never-before-seen marine life, vegetation, potentially large formations there, the bottom of the ocean. The reality is that someone has to go there and explore. I am happy to have this opportunity.
I am sure it will be fascinating. What kind of training do you need to complete for these two missions?
A very extensive training session will begin in June for the AX-1 space mission. It will be about 17 weeks before we start. The launch is expected to be in early February and we will train at the Johnson Space Center in Cape Canaveral [where Kennedy Space Center is located] and then SpaceX. Because I pilot, I am the commander. Mike Lopez Alegría [a former NASA astronaut] will have some additional training and requirements. Such a great opportunity, but a great challenge, and I think it is of the utmost importance that we be the first all-civilian crew to meet or exceed astronaut standards. [Connor later clarified there was only very basic training involved for him for the deep-sea expeditions.]
Do you expect any physical strain on your body from these expeditions?
Talking about the limiting factor that a submersible is, you are not going through decompression sickness so it is almost like being at sea level. So there is no problem. In terms of the course, I’ve always had a lot of rigorous training and we’re going to train some extra. So I think we are physically and mentally prepared and in good shape.
You have experience in piloting, right?
Yes, I was lucky, I have flown many different types of aircraft. Everything from helicopters to fighter jets for the past 15 years.
How different is this type of flight expedition for you compared to these experiences?
Well, in that case you would be the pilot, you would fly. Here Mike is the commander, which means he’s in charge. He is a multiple, highly decorated astronaut. I’m the pilot, but I’m really going to help Mike. Our primary role will be to monitor systems and report to NASA.
What do your family and colleagues think of these expeditions?
Well, there are two camps: One camp thinks it’s incredible and loves me. The other camp, I think you may not be scared, but it’s the unknown. So it is understandable that you have some family members who may or may not have concerns [trepidation]. But in both cases I can tell you that both the AX-1 mission and the EYOS expedition mission to the Mariana Trench are absolute professionals. You have done a tremendous amount of work building security systems, so on both missions I am very confident that we can do them well and safely.
Well, it sounds like you’re all really preparing for this. That’s why I wanted to ask you a little about your career, which sounds interesting too. You have had many startups and different careers that you have started in your life – how did you get into real estate?
We were very fortunate to have founded and built up eight companies. Seven of them were really successful. It wasn’t one of them, but the one who wasn’t who was in the tech field, we learned a tremendous amount on this trip. And so, like many other people, I began to buy real estate part-time, evenings and weekends, and I was fascinated by the aspects of investment real estate. So in 1992 we formed a partnership called Connor, Murphy and Buhrman. And we started investing in real estate. Within three years we decided: “Look, we will become specialists and concentrate exclusively on large, well-located residential communities, either A locations with A or B assets.” But we wanted to take a different path – none of us came from the industry. So we said, “hey, we think we can build our own operating models our own way,” and we believed we could well exceed industry standards, and luckily we could do so.
We currently have approximately $ 3.5 billion in net worth. What is unique is that we do a lot of transactional activities and classify these as buying, selling and refinancing. Last year, even during the pandemic, we made over $ 1.1 billion in transactions.
Wow, fantastic. It sounds like you have this booming business on one hand, and then you are obviously very active in your personal life with your adventures – how do you balance it all?
Well, it’s been a long journey and business and family have always come first. But we’ve built a phenomenally good team of people and a very unique culture. We also developed a lot of planning and processes, so I think it will be great for the company if I don’t really get involved for six or seven months, giving other people the opportunity to be in decision-making roles. And hey, you will make mistakes along the way, but we believe you will learn a lot from mistakes. So make mistakes, learn quickly, and correct. So, net-net, I think it’s going to be pretty positive overall for the organization and all of the people in it.
Large. If you just look at these explorations that you’re about to begin, do you think there is anything that real estate professionals could specifically do for you in this type of research and exploration?
I don’t know it’s really real estate exclusive, but … I believe – and hopefully it might inspire a few other people – to aim high. Don’t set any limits. You are only limited by what you can dream of. When people tell you something is impossible, it’s not impossible – it’s only impossible when you think it’s impossible. Hopefully that’s what some people will see. Growing up I wasn’t a great student, I really didn’t have any money. So, my hard work and working with a range of other really dedicated, talented people … we’ve been able to do some amazing things.
This is a unique challenge to try all of this within 12 months. No one else has ever gone to the bottom of the ocean or into space in that 12 month period. But I think it speaks to everything, you can do anything if you believe it, and impossible is only impossible if you think it is impossible.
Email Lillian Dickerson