SCHENECTADY — Fifty years ago next week, one of upstate New York’s largest developers made a quiet debut in the Capital Region, closing on the purchase of an idle Army supply depot in Guilderland.
A half-century later, Francesco Galesi’s various ventures span the nation — from East Coast to West Coast and the Gulf of Mexico almost to Canada. But nowhere are his properties more concentrated than in the Schenectady area.
Among five counties of the Capital Region, the Galesi Group owns 116 buildings that are valued at $693.5 million, total 11.5 million square feet, pay $12.5 million a year in taxes and are home to 213 tenants with 9,600 employees.
Its headquarters has been here the whole time, though in a nondescript Rotterdam warehouse for 49 years. It finally moved into plusher surroundings at Mohawk Harbor in 2018.
There have been mistakes and even some failures along the way, CEO David Buicko said last week. But the successes outnumbered and far outvalued the failures.
“Anybody that bats a thousand isn’t taking any risks,” he said. “We took risks.”
Francesco Galesi grew up one of six children of Italian immigrants in northern New Jersey. After serving in the Marine Corps and earning a degree at Princeton University, he went into real estate, his father’s profession.
His first ventures in upstate New York, with brothers Vincent and John, were a shopping center in Binghamton and conversion of a Buffalo-area helicopter factory into an industrial park.
In partnership with Vincent, Francesco looked east in 1969, to another former military property — the Guilderland component of the Schenectady Army Depot, a sprawling campus built to supply the Allied war effort during World War II. Later in 1969, they bought the second half of the Schenectady Army Depot, in Rotterdam. The total expenditure was $4 million, much of it borrowed money.
This would become a pattern: Buy properties with great potential at bargain prices. But another turning point came in 1969: Vincent Galesi’s terminal illness left Francesco Galesi alone at the helm.
The “Group” in “Galesi Group” refers to a group of ventures, not a group of owners.
The operation grew and did well enough that Francesco Galesi was appearing on lists of the wealthiest Americans by the mid-1980s — but generally without any commentary or details, as he avoided publicity whenever possible.
The few profiles published in that era describe him not as personable but private. He enjoyed his wealth but was not interested in discussing it, or himself.
Similarly, a third of a century later, he asked Buicko to speak for the company for this story.
At age 88 with snow-white hair, Galesi is handsome and smiling in recent photos from his winter home in Florida. He is physically active and remains involved in setting the strategy for the Galesi Group, though he sticks with the formula he long ago settled on: Hire the right people and let them do the day-to-day work of running the company. He even lets them overrule him, at times.
“Sometimes he doesn’t do what I recommend; sometimes I don’t do what he wants,” said Buicko, the Galesi Group’s top employee since 1986.
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Cropley, John. “Galesi Group a Major Presence 50 Years after Capital Region Debut.” Galesi Group a Major Presence 50 Years after Capital Region Debut, 2019, dailygazette.com/article/2019/01/18/galesi-group-a-major-presence-50-years-after-capital-region-debut.