ND Founders Profile #130: Lessons Learned in Life, Business, and Football Drive this FouNDer to Create Better Communities

Author: Melanie Lux

Nd Founders Square Photofbmalc


Company Founded: Langdon Park Capital Year Graduated: 1998
Title: Founder and CEO Degree: BBA, Business
Location: Los Angeles, CA Residence Hall: St. Edwards, Sorin

At age 16, Malcolm Johnson moved to South Bend, Indiana, prepared to meet the biggest opportunity of his young life. Just one year prior, the self-described late bloomer was still dreaming about playing major college football, but never imagined suiting up for the University of Notre Dame’s top-ranked program.

“I grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended  a Jesuit high school in the heart of the city. I played three sports, but I really loved football because it was the ultimate team sport. I wasn’t a particularly great player though. Up until my senior year, I thought that if I was lucky, I’d play for the University of Pennsylvania, my parents’ alma mater,” recalls Johnson. “But I had a really good season as a senior and not only did Notre Dame’s coaches start calling me, but so did coaches from Stanford, Southern Cal, Texas, and Florida. My school’s headmaster and coaches were excited about Notre Dame, and so was I, but my parents still thought I’d go to Penn.”

“I chose Notre Dame because it was the best choice for academics and athletics, and because it was far away enough from D.C. for me to be truly independent.”

While a scholarship to play for the Fighting Irish fulfilled Johnson’s lifelong goal of competing at the highest level, he also had a desire to explore the world outside of Washington, D.C. However, the Notre Dame community was such a different environment that he initially felt out of his comfort zone.

“I was going to school on a beautiful campus with students from all over the country, but not a lot of them looked like me. I knew that I belonged at Notre Dame; however, I had to make a conscious decision to learn to adapt and thrive in new environments that were foreign to me,” he says. “I knew if I could do that at Notre Dame, that I could succeed anywhere.”

“Growing up, my parents ensured that my brothers and I knew our true history, but they also insisted that we learn to embrace learning new things and build authentic relationships with everyone. That was the main reason they sent me to a high school that required an hour-long commute from my neighborhood on the bus and subway, and it was the main reason they wanted me to grow into a man at a place like Notre Dame,” he adds.

While at Notre Dame, Johnson also leaned on former assistant coach Urban Meyer. The lessons learned from Meyer were profound and helped shape him into a stronger person and player. Meyer pushed Johnson to learn to be a leader among his peers, something that helped him excel as a player and ultimately propelled him to a starting role at Notre Dame and into the National Football League.

“Once I earned Urban’s trust and performed first in practice and then in games, he started to lean on me to be a vocal leader with my teammates. But he only allowed that after he knew that I was willing to work hard, his way.”

After earning his degree from Notre Dame, Johnson reached the pinnacle of football when he was drafted by the National Football League’s (NFL) Pittsburgh Steelers. “Playing professional football was never my final goal, but it was a dream come true.”

Johnson soon learned that reaching a lifelong goal was not without cost. During his first year with the Steelers, he quickly discovered that playing with professionals was not quite the same as playing with close friends like he was able to do at Notre Dame and in high school.

“I loved the game, my NFL teammates and the competition, but the fact of the matter is that I was just good enough to be on an NFL team, but not good enough to be one of the best players. I eventually got to be OK with that. I earned my way into the pros, and I knew I belonged there. Because I was a role player during my playing career, my identity wasn’t wrapped up in  football,” he says.

Johnson retired from the NFL at age 25 after playing for three teams in four years. “When I left football,” he says, “I was at peace with that part of my life, and I was ready to face a new challenge.”

Johnson’s next chapter required learning new business skills. He enrolled at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business to pursue a Master of Business Administration. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon, he decided to begin his finance career in real estate banking because it allowed him to work in a fast-paced environment with lots of competition. Perhaps most important, he would get to work with a team and develop relationships with clients. Banking would also give Johnson access to the connections he needed to make an impact. For the next 15 years, he built a career and relationships that spanned the largest commercial real estate firms to the communities where they owned properties, first with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and then with JPMorgan.

While Johnson always harbored thoughts of starting a company, it wasn’t until 2020, nearly 16 years after beginning his second career that his plans began to crystallize. “In my last role at JPMorgan, I helped the bank invest in affordable rental housing. It struck me that there was a large opportunity for a diverse ownership group to invest in that asset class. I began thinking about creating a company that would strengthen the types of communities where I was raised, while utilizing the skill sets of senior professionals like me to make smart investment decisions.”

In 2021, Johnson launched Langdon Park Capital with the goal of acquiring, developing, and operating residential properties for working-class families in large markets like Washington, D.C., and Southern and Northern California. These markets are home to large workforces but have a limited supply of affordable housing for middle-income earners.

Although the business proposition was clear, Johnson’s interest wasn’t purely a profit-driven model. He also wanted to create lasting social impact in historically underserved Black and Latino communities. A critical part of his firm’s investment due diligence requires that Langdon Park Capital knows and understands the firm’s target markets to determine where they can add value. This can include providing access to quality health care, mainstream financial services companies, healthy grocers, and after school programming for residents’ children. To implement these changes, Langdon Park Capital utilizes partnerships with organizations that help provide those resources, which makes neighborhoods stronger, and the company’s investments more valuable.

Johnson hired leaders with the cultural competency to make his vision work. “Langdon Park Capital is intentional in everything we do. Each of our team members knows our target markets. We are guided by a desire to be responsible property owners for our residents and good stewards of capital for our investors. Both groups are stakeholders, and both groups deserve our focus.”

Langdon Park Capital’s first investor was Kennedy Wilson, a real estate investment firm and previous client of Johnson’s at JPMorgan. Less than a year later, Eldridge, a global holding company with business interests in financial services, sports, entertainment, and technology, became an investor as well. With backing from those mission-aligned institutional partners, Langdon Park Capital was able to begin executing on its business plan.

Despite the lingering effects of the global pandemic, Langdon Park Capital remained true to Johnson’s plan and completed four acquisitions in the first eight months of 2022. Today, the company operates out of offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and has nearly $149 million in assets under management. Johnson attributes the strong start to a strong team, committed partners and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

“Without resources from supportive investors, hard work by our amazing team and a sustainable, scalable business model, Langdon Park Capital could not have achieved this much success so early,” he says.

Despite heading into 2023 with interest rates continuing to rise and a slowdown in the financial markets, Johnson remains optimistic. “Challenging times present more opportunities. We remain focused on what’s important to our communities. Capital will find its way to good investment opportunities.”

Johnson offers practical and inspirational advice to other founders. “Find something you are passionate about, build relationships with people whose character you respect, gain a technical skillset people will pay you for, and think strategically about what you want to build. Above all, remember we have a finite amount of time here. We should all be working toward uplifting others.”