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  • Arizona Contractor & Community

Arizona’s Luxury Leader Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty Celebrates Its Diamond Anniversary

75 Years of Selling the State’s Most Beautiful, Record-Breaking and Iconic Properties


2022 may have been another big year on record for Arizona’s luxury leader, but most importantly as the year comes to a close Scottsdale-based Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty is proud to celebrate its Diamond Anniversary - 75 years in business, a momentous milestone.

During its 75-years in business, the company has grown into a 7-billion-dollar full-service luxury real estate brokerage with more than 900-full-time REALTORS and 13 convenient offices stretching across Arizona from Tubac and Tucson up to Scottsdale, Peoria, Phoenix, and Gilbert and all the way through Northern Arizona in Sedona, Prescott and Flagstaff. The brokerage continues strategic growth by investing in its people through innovation, exceptional service, and leadership, providing maximum return to all of 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 luxury buyers and sellers locally and internationally, always giving our clients the white-glove services they deserve and have come to expect,” said Chairman Jim Lyon. “Our agents across Arizona continue to strive to make history and sustain Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty’s efforts as the leading luxury brokerage in Arizona, as we continue through our 75th anniversary.”

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 Big Band era. He decided to relocate his family, wife Janis (Bibsey), and sons Rusty and Dennis to Hollywood, California to further his music career in the mid-1940s. While crossing Arizona, his son Rusty came down ill with Valley Fever. So, they wintered in Mesa's small farm town so Rusty could recover and regain his strength.

One winter was enough to convince Russ that he’d found Heaven in The Valley of the Sun. He changed the family’s plans and decided to remain in Arizona permanently. There being no music industry to speak of in The Valley, Russ agreed 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, and with dignity, respect and professionalism. A business ethic that is to this day a cornerstone of Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty.


Russ’ son, Dennis, entered the family real estate business as a young man and eventually took the reins in the 1970’s. Dennis built upon the solid foundation his father had created, and Russ Lyon Realty grew and prospered for several decades. Russ’ other son, Rusty, went into commercial real estate and founded a company called Westcor, 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 1990’s, Dennis’ son, Jim Lyon, joined the company and quickly climbed the ranks from agent to management. In 2004, Jim partnered with long-time childhood 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 the dominant luxury real estate firm.


In 2012, Jim and Todd, invited top-producing agent and friend, Tom Locati, to join the company as partners. Two years later the Russ Lyon Foundation was formed and this past year it was recognized in the Top 3 for mid-sized companies for its corporate philanthropy and volunteerism.


Together, Jim Lyon, Todd Gillenwater, Tom Locati along the 900 agents, employees and staff members 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 has its best year on record closing over 7,000 successful transactions, totaling more than 7 billion dollars in Arizona real estate.

“For nearly 30 years, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty has been my professional life and my second family. I could not be prouder to work with the most talented real estate advisors, management and support teams in this industry. We help each other learn and grow, as professionals and as people,” said CEO Todd Gillenwater.

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