BY Bill Wilson, The Wichita Eagle
George Ablah, the man credited with helping drive east Wichita's
development, was honored Friday with the Kansas Certified Commercial
Investment Member chapter's third Lifetime Achievement Award.
78, was presented with artwork during the chapter's annual December
banquet at Crestview Country Club. He joins Colby Sandlian and Jack
Hunt as recipients of the professional group's highest honor.
Introduced by his brother, Don, as a man who's "good at figuring out
how the system works and then working the system," much of
Ablah's speech centered on his business friendships with Fred
Koch and his son, Charles.
He credited Fred Koch's support for the first $2 million loan that
jump-started his real estate career, and called Charles Koch "the
second-best business partner I've ever had . . . next to the woman I
married 50 years ago."
Fred Koch's referral to his Minnesota bankers was critical, Ablah
said, because a "young Lebanese guy" couldn't gain acceptance in the
Wichita business market.
"Most of the deals I did early in my career were outside Wichita
(for that reason)," he said. "I had a different image in other
cities and that's why I did there what I couldn't do here."
talked about his deals with Charles Koch: The purchase of Chrysler
Realty from Lee Iacocca and their northeast Wichita land deal that
eventually facilitated the expansion of K-96.
In his book, "The Science of Success," Koch - chairman and chief
executive of Koch Industries - praises Ablah's vision and
their shared values.
When their company, ABKO, dissolved, Ablah took 2,000 acres
in Comotara and a New York City office complex as part of the
profits, he said.
The Comotara land quickly came into play when efforts to build a
stretch of K-96 in east Wichita stalled. So Ablah and Koch,
who controlled 2,000 acres that now includes his Koch Industries
offices, donated about two-thirds of the land to the state, which
otherwise couldn't afford to start the project.
"I think that's really made a significant change in Wichita, and I'm
very pleased with that," Ablah said.
Tony Utter, outgoing president of the CCIM chapter, credited the
K-96 donation with "furthering a lot of real estate careers in
"In addition to fast travel across town, that really spurred a lot
of economic development," he said.
"I know I would have done a lot fewer deals without it."