Ed Friedrichs, former president and CEO of Gensler, truly understood strategy and how all the pieces of a business fit together into a cohesive whole.
I lost one of my old motorcycling and work buddies, Ed Friedrichs, who died on May 13. He was quite successful and lived a rich and varied life, and was 77 years old at the time of his passing.
Ed and I served on the board of directors of several AEC firms together. He also served as Zweig White’s BOD chair when I first got re-involved with the company (one that I started in 1988 as Mark Zweig & Associates) back in late 2010.
I can’t even remember exactly how we met, but I knew Ed for quite some time. We were never what I would call close friends, although we were most certainly friends. Ed even kept two motorcycles at my house in Fayetteville for a number of years so he and I could ride when he came to town, and for he and his then-wife, Pat, to use to travel east every summer. Ed and I talked every so often, and we worked closely on some of the BODs we served on together. We had a common interest in two things: the AEC business and motorcycles. We had each also married three times.
Ed was probably best known for his tenure as architectural firm giant, Gensler’s, president and CEO, a post he held for about eight years. He joined Gensler in 1969 (Art Gensler coincidentally also passed away only days before Ed), and Ed started Gensler’s Los Angeles office in 1976. Other than working as a management consultant and outside director in his later years, Ed spent his professional career there at Gensler. In recent years, Ed moved from San Francisco to Reno, Nevada, where he immersed himself in what I would consider large-scale development and got married to his third wife, Margaret. He loved Reno and couldn’t believe how cheap and easy it was to live there compared with San Francisco.
A brilliant guy by any standard, he had dual degrees in both architecture and mechanical engineering from Stanford, as well as a master of architecture degree from Penn. Nearly every time I either spoke to or met with Ed, he told me about a book (or gave me a list of books) I needed to read! He was also one of the best marketers and business developers I have ever known in the design business. One of his greatest sales successes was the time they had an opportunity to secure a design services contract for a new Ducati showroom (complete with wine bar) in New York City. Ed called into the final presentation from Colorado. He was on a road trip on his own Ducati. Needless to say, they got the project!
Ed knew pretty much everybody you would want to know. Besides many leaders of AEC firms throughout the land, he even introduced me to Bob Lutz, an auto industry top executive icon who was vice chairman of GM and Chrysler, and also on the BOD of Ford (he was super fun to talk to and someone I spoke with a number of times afterward).
I last talked to Ed maybe three months or so ago. I hadn’t heard from him much lately and was glad to speak with him. He didn’t sound great, and he told me he was down to serving on only one BOD, but looking forward to being able to travel again soon.
In any case, Ed was a solid guy who, in spite of having no real formal business education, had a mind made for business. He truly understood strategy and how all the pieces of a business fit together into a cohesive whole. And he stayed on top of what was happening in the world. Plus, he was always fond of my wife, and I have to appreciate him for his obvious ability to judge character!
I will miss Ed, with his book lists, motorcycling stories, and long holiday newsletters. I’m of a certain age now where my friends are starting to die off with an alarming regularity. It would be nice for that pace to slow down for a bit. I don’t want to lose another Ed Friedrichs any time soon!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.