Eric G. Phillips at his Montecito home.
Paul Wellman

Eric Phillips is one of the nicest guys I’ve met. He walks into a room with a big smile on his face and enveloped in a “let’s get this done” attitude. He’s on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and has been instrumental in the ongoing remodel of the Riviera Theatre, clocking in hundreds of hours diligently looking after this non-profit’s back. But we’re not the only organization that benefits of from Eric’s indefatigable gregariousness. He’s also a major advocate for the Santa Barbara Police Foundation and is on the Executive Board of the Granada Theater. “I grew up with parents who were very active in their community,” Eric shares with me – a fact that might explain for his passionate motivation.

Phillips was born to middle class parents in Beverly Hills in the 1960s. “I couldn’t wait to get out of there,” he says. “The kids in Beverly Hills didn’t have any drive. They’d get a Ferrari on their 16th birthday.” So Eric decided to go to the University of Texas at Austin where h got a biology degree and studied to be a medical doctor. “I went to school with Michael Dell who at the time was selling computers out of the back of his car,” he says. In a form of serendipity, the University of Texas policy of prioritizing Texas residents forced Eric to get an in-state job for a year. He did so well as a realtor in Texas that Banc One asked him to move to New England and run their real estate division there. “I had to hire 300 people in 90 days,” he recalls. “At 24, I became their youngest Vice President. By the time I was 29, I was married and had three kids.

“I saw an opportunity on a student housing project at the University of Connecticut to buy it and manage it,” he tells me. People reminded him about Animal House and told him that students would destroy it. When he tried to raise the money for the project, people wouldn’t invest because the project was unlike anything he had done before. Fortunately, he met an investor, Russ Wilkinson, who told him that although he wouldn’t invest in the project, he would buy it, let Eric run it, and eventually, if it was profitable, allow Eric to buy it back. “A year later I bought it back,” recalls Eric with a beaming smile. “We did this all on a handshake.” That deal cemented Eric Phillips’ stock. He took a 124-bed student housing project and grew it into 7500 beds of student rentals in Ohio, Michigan and Connecticut. “In 2006, I sold my whole portfolio to the multinational banking and investment company ING and retired.”

Phillips restarted in 2010 when his son asked him to open a company with him. Six years later, they have three thousand beds. Eric Phillips is now the CEO of PHILLIPS Acquisitions + PHILLIPS Management, a real estate acquisition and management company specializing in student housing.

“The first time I came to Santa Barbara, I fell in love,” Eric says. He and his wife have a lovely home in Montecito.

Eric answers the Proust Questionnaire.

What is your motto?

Start each day with a smile and positive attitude, it’s a new day!

What do you like most about your job?

I am my own boss and I love what I do which is being a “hunter” in that I find the acquisitions, close the deal and leave the details of day-to-day to our professional team.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Happy family, happy life!

What is your greatest fear?

The growing hatred in the world; we seem to make very little progress as human beings.

Who do you most admire?

Positive, driven people who try to make the world a better place.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Flying by private jet.

What is your current state of mind?


What is the quality you most like in people?

Big heart.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

Negative attitude.

What do you most value in friends?

Friendship and loyalty.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Big heart.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Love ya man!”

Which talent would you most like to have?

Public speaking.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

To be able to eat whenever, whatever and not gain a pound and not have it affect my cholesterol level.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My family and starting and growing my own company.

Where would you most like to live?

Right where I am in Montecito.

What is your most treasured possession?

Health and family.

Who makes you laugh the most?

My three children.

What is your motto?

Start each day with a smile and positive attitude, it’s a new day!

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Leonardo DaVinci, who was so ahead of his time and did so much for the advancement of civilization.

On what occasion do you lie?

When I talk to politicians and they want donations for their campaign, I say I’m broke.


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