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Real estate tycoon at 24

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When Adam Blake says his business "has grown a bit in scope" since he went into real estate, he’s not kidding.

Starting out as a residential property manager, he turned to buying and renting out such places himself. Then he expanded into high-volume flipping of single-family homes.

Recently, he’s been buying land and selling the rights to drill for oil and gas. Blake now also recruits deep-pocketed investors for high-profile property deals — most recently the acquisition of a landmark building in downtown Fort Worth, from billionaire Robert Bass.

He is 24.

Though he admits that his tender years sometimes require him to work harder than others might in order to establish credibility, Blake appears to be well on his way to living the entrepreneurial dream.

His principal company is Fort Worth-based Atlas Properties, which provides real estate investment, development, management and brokerage services.

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Atlas landed at 123rd on Inc. magazine’s most recent list of 500 fastest-growing private firms, reporting revenues of $5.8 million in 2008 and growth of 1,412 percent. Among the top 50 real estate companies, Inc. ranked Atlas at No. 2 in terms of growth.

Not bad for a guy who six years ago was making a living recruiting student tenants for landlords at Texas Christian University while majoring in business there.

"I had to pay my way through school," Blake says. "And I saw an opportunity — there was a huge disconnect between students and landlords who had houses for rent.

"Eventually, I was managing a few hundred units," he says. "But slowly, I learned that it was not the business I wanted to be in."

Blake’s perception of time probably isn’t like most people’s — "slowly" amounted to about a year.

"(Property management) is a lot of work for not a lot of money," he says. So at 18, he bought his first house.

"I found an opportunity to buy small two- or three-bedroom houses and convert additional spaces into bedrooms," he says, explaining that adding sleeping areas increased the number of students who could live there — and thus, the monthly cash flow. …CONTINUED