Adam Blake made one of his first life-changing decisions as an eighth-grader in Kansas City, Mo. He made another last month. Blake, 24, who has...

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Adam Blake made one of his first life-changing decisions as an eighth-grader in Kansas City, Mo. He made another last month.

Blake, 24, who has turned a residential real-estate business he started as a sophomore at Texas Christian University into a multimillion-dollar venture, in September closed on the purchase of the historic Electric Building in downtown Fort Worth from billionaire Robert Bass.

Blake hopes it will be the first of several commercial real-estate buys. The deal, though, catapulted him into a market dominated by deep pockets, institutional investors and older developers, right where he wants to be.

More important, he said, the buy gave him “much-needed credibility, even though at the end of the day, I don’t think I’m any different for buying this building. Some people’s perception is probably a little different.”

He was right. Six real-estate brokers called him after the deal was announced to pitch other properties.

“He definitely doesn’t look at his age as any sort of liability,” said Terry Montesi, founding partner of the Fort Worth-based commercial real-estate firm Trademark Cos. “He has a lot of confidence and is generally fearless.”

Blake has the portfolio to prove just how serious he is.

His company Atlas Properties was on the latest Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private U.S. companies, reporting 2008 revenues of $5.8 million, up from $382,778 in 2005. And that’s just one of the nearly dozen companies and investment funds he owns.

His youth does get in the way of deals, he said. Recently, he wanted to buy a Houston apartment community, but the broker involved asked to see his personal bank statements before he’d accept his offer.

“One guy told me he thought a deal was out of my league because he read on one of my Web sites that I am only 24,” Blake said. “Definitely, age can be a hurdle.”

In some cases, Blake said, people think he’s inexperienced because of his age. “People ask, ‘Who do you work for?’ That’s happened so many times in the past six to eight months as I’ve been making offers on buildings.”

Worst of all, people assume he has a rich parent backing his venture. That couldn’t be further from the truth. What happened to his father led him into entrepreneurship, Blake said.

Richard Blake lost his job as a vice president of a telecommunications company that went belly-up in the dot-com bust nine years ago. That hit the family’s finances, and Adam Blake swore he’d never let that happen again.

“He didn’t have a college degree and couldn’t get another high-paying job,” Blake said. “Everything he worked for pretty much got wiped out. That’s what inspired me to be an entrepreneur and not go into corporate America.”

Richard Blake said his son wasn’t always the greatest of students. But in eighth-grade, Adam came home one day and announced he wanted to attend the more demanding Rockhurst High School, a Jesuit college-preparatory school in Kansas City, Mo., rather than the public high school.

Not wanting to discourage him, Richard Blake agreed, but warned him about the tests he needed to pass to get in. “Overnight, he started getting straight A’s,” he said. “He became an excellent student.”

Adam Blake got into the school, excelled in his course work and played quarterback on the football team.

That led to him to TCU, where he walked onto the Horned Frog football team for one season and where he flourished as a student and started his first company, B&B Acquisitions.

Richard Blake recalls the time his son came home for a Christmas break and said he was interested in real estate. Within a couple of weeks, he had his license after completing an online course.

“He’s a very serious-minded individual,” his father said. “You can’t hold him down. For his age, he’s done very well.”

Montesi mentored Blake as a college student a couple of times and has met with him more in recent months.

“He’s got a tremendous amount of confidence and savvy that surpasses his years,” Montesi said.

At TCU, Blake supported himself and paid for college by starting a company that helped fellow students find places to rent. In 2004, using financial aid and a $100,000 loan from a fraternity brother who became a partner in B&B, Blake started buying rental property.

“That launched my career in real estate,” he said.

He continued to buy houses and branched out across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. At one time, his companies owned more than 100 rental houses.

He’s been slowly selling them, in part because the $8,000 first-time-homebuyer tax credit has spurred the market, but also to move into the commercial sector.

Blake’s 11-member staff includes his brother, David, who’s a property manager. For about two years, his father was his office manager.

“I didn’t sleep very much,” Adam Blake said of his college days. “I didn’t spend any time on what I would call nonproductive activities, like playing video games and watching movies, things your average college student did.

“I had never had a real job before. I was busboy at a restaurant, and I worked at a gym, stuff like that. I never worked in an office.”Blake said his success comes from “the millions of dollars of free advice” he garnered at TCU from local real-state professionals happy to meet with him as a college student.

Blake graduated in 2007 with a business-administration degree, majoring in finance, accounting and entrepreneurial management.

In 2005, he won the prestigious Global Student Entrepreneur Award, given annually by the Virginia-based Entrepreneurs’ Organization to one student who owns and runs a business while attending a college or university.

Proceeds from the sale of 5 acres near Lake Arlington, Texas, along with money from a buyout in a former business deal, have sustained his real-estate efforts, Blake said. Investors provided some of the cash to buy the historic Electric Building, which he financed by assuming a $4 million note.

Despite the credit crunch, Blake said he has not had trouble getting money for deals, probably because of his strong track record.

He said he did have to find another bank for a line of credit after a Dallas bank he was using stopped real-estate lending.

“I don’t flaunt money, buy stupid things or take it for granted,” he said. “I am working really hard and I’m not afraid to take risks.”