The Lyon family was at the forefront of transforming the Valley into what it is today through development and real estate, dating back to World War II when Russ Lyon moved here, got his real estate license, and started Russ Lyon Realty in 1947.
Russ’ son Dennis took over the real estate practice in 1968 as the company’s president, continuing to dominate the luxury market, primarily in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, and growing the company to about 350 agents.
Dennis’ son Jim bought the company from his father in 2008 and merged it with Sotheby’s International Realty in 2014.
As of 2022, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty now has 13 offices, 900+ agents, and services locations like Tubac, Flagstaff & everywhere in between.
Read more about how Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty has been serving Arizona since 1947 below.
2022 is a banner year for Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty. 75 years ago, in 1947, Russ Lyon founded the Russ Lyon Realty Company.
During these 75 years, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty has grown into a 7 billion dollar, full-service luxury real estate brokerage with more than 900 full-time real estate advisors and 13 offices across Arizona from Tubac and Tucson to Scottsdale, Carefree, Gilbert, Peoria, and Fountain Hills to Prescott, Sedona, and Flagstaff.
If you’ve been around Phoenix long enough, you remember when a huge, well-landscaped billboard at 24th and Camelback had a lion on it advertising Russ Lyon Realty, which was the premier home sales agency in the Valley. The Lyon family is really royalty in the Arizona real estate world.Grady Gammage Jr., a long-time Valley land-use attorney and partner at Gammage & Burnham in Phoenix.
The brokerage continues strategic growth by investing in its people through innovation, exceptional service, and leadership, providing maximum returns to all its agents and clients.
I am very proud of Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty for reaching our diamond milestone, as we continue to represent buyers and sellers locally and internationally always giving our clients the white-glove services they deserve and have come to expect. Our real estate advisors across Arizona are our core business, they work tirelessly to provide the best service possible while upholding the standards and ethics that make Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty Arizona’s real estate leader.Jim Lyon, chairman
The story of Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty began in 1947 when Russ Lyon Sr. founded Russ Lyon Realty with just three employees.
Lyon had been an accomplished saxophone player in New York City and, in the 1930s, formed Russ Lyon and his orchestra during the significant band era. He decided to relocate his family, wife Janis, and sons Rusty and Dennis to Hollywood, CA, to further his music career in the mid-1940s. While crossing Arizona, Rusty came down with Valley Fever. So, they wintered in the small farm town of Mesa so Rusty could recover.
One winter was enough to convince Russ that he’d found Heaven in The Valley of the Sun, Arizona. He changed the family’s plans, deciding to remain in Arizona permanently.
There being no music industry to speak of in The Valley, Russ decided in 1947 to start a real estate company and named it Russ Lyon Realty.
The family moved to an adobe home on Cattletrack Drive in Scottsdale, where actual cattle drives were a common occurrence. This home still stands and is known as the Stable Galleria.
Russ built the company into a luxury powerhouse in Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, and Phoenix by always treating clients fairly, with dignity, respect, and professionalism. To this day, a business ethic is a cornerstone of Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty.
Russ’s son, Dennis, entered the family real estate business as a young man and eventually took the reins in the 1970s. Dennis built upon the solid foundation his father had created, and Russ Lyon Realty Company grew and prospered for several decades. Russ’s other son, Rusty, went into commercial real estate and founded Westcor, a company that revolutionized the American shopping mall concept and built some of the most successful malls in the United States, including Scottsdale Fashion Square.
In the 1990s, Dennis’ son, Jim Lyon, joined the company and quickly climbed the ranks from agent to management. In 2004, Jim partnered with long-time friend and successful Russ Lyon Realty agent Todd Gillenwater and opened franchise offices in Sedona, Prescott, and Flagstaff. In 2008, Jim and Todd purchased Russ Lyon Realty from Dennis, which they merged with another local brokerage to create Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty, Arizona’s dominant luxury real estate firm.
In 2012, Jim and Todd invited top-producing agent and friend Tom Locati to join the company as partners.
In 2014, the Russ Lyon Foundation was formed and was recently recognized in the Top 3 mid-sized companies for corporate philanthropy and volunteerism. Together, Jim Lyon, Todd Gillenwater, and Tom Locati have continued the traditions and ethics that Russ Lyon Sr. started 75 years ago, and Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty continues to lead the industry by example.
In 2021, the company closed over 7,000 successful transactions, totaling more than 7 billion dollars in Arizona real estate.