Holmgren's dad and Century 21

  By Mike Sando

  The News Tribune

  Aug. 1, 1999


  An aspiring real estate broker named Mike Holmgren had a confession to make, namely that he wasn't so aspiring, after all. To put it bluntly, his heart was elsewhere. Fortunately for Holmgren, his father was the understanding type.

  ``He wanted me to go into real estate and I took the real estate classes, preparing for my brokers exam,'' Holmgren says. ``But I realized I was doing it for him more than myself. He didn't want me to do that for him. So I told him it wasn't for me, and I got into teaching.

  ``And he accepted that.''

  Lincoln ``Link'' Holmgren was president of the San Francisco Board of Realtors, the largest such association in the country. He was chairman of his church and widely respected in an era when a man's word was often his bond and deals were consummated with firm hand shakes.

  Link had never made much money, but that was about to change in the early 1970s when he joined forces with Dick Loughlin and Don Gordon to start Century 21 Real Estate in Northern California and Nevada.

  Loughlin handled the administrative side. Gordon and Holmgren were responsible for selling franchises.

  ``The potential was there and Link felt great about it,'' Loughlin says, ``but we were just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel when he passed away in April of 1974.

  ``It was a huge loss for us personally, and it was a loss for our business because he provided a great deal of stability. Link was a stable, strong, we-can-do-it type of guy that you felt

good rallying around.''

  Gordon and Loughlin pressed forward and ultimately sold more than 400 franchises. They credit Mike Holmgren's father for helping them persevere in the early stages, when finances were tight.

  ``When we formed our

partnership, I had made some money but Dick and Link put $8,500 loans against their homes for us to have the capital to get going,'' Gordon says. ``That in itself tells you something.''

  A title company had given the trio a corporate guarantee for $300,000 to cover front-end costs, an unusual arrangement secured by Century 21's national leadership.

  ``Dick and I had just broken even, and then the business just flourished, maybe within six or eight months after Link died,'' Gordon says.

  Loughlin has since become part-owner of the NFL's Carolina Panthers. Gordon is retired and living in San Francisco, where he's a regular at the historic Olympic Club.

  Link would be 73 this year.

  ``I think of him often,'' Loughlin says. ``Every time I see or hear about Mike, I think his dad would have been very proud.

  ``I just know that Link had a big influence on Mike. His thing was optimism, sticktuitiveness. I'm absolutely certain that he instilled it in Mike. The idea of, if you have a dream,

go for it. That was Link. And certainly, his dream was starting Century 21 with Don and I.''

  Before joining forces with Gordon and Loughlin, Link was a partner with three fellow Swedes from his church, including Gordon Bostrom.

  ``When I saw Mike last summer, I said, `Mike, I would consider trading my life for your dad's life so he could be here and watch you now,'' Bostrom says. ``And he said, `You know, you're the second guy that's said that.''

  Don Gordon was the other.