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Kunnath, Rik


Biographical Information

Richard "Rik" M. Kunnath has served as executive chairman of the board for Pankow Management, Inc., the holding company for the various entities that constitute the Pankow group of companies, and president of the Charles Pankow Foundation.

He began his career with Charles Pankow, Inc. (CPI), in 1979 as a project superintendent. Over two decades, he rose steadily through the ranks of upper management. In 1999 Charlie Pankow named him CEO and president of the company.

After graduating in 1971 from the University of Detroit with a B.S. degree in civil engineering, Kunnath went to work for Mobil Oil Corporation. As a construction engineer, he worked at various petrochemical facilities in Michigan and Ohio.

In 1975 he took a job as a construction manager at BASF. For four years, he worked at various chemical facilities in New Jersey.

In 1979 Kunnath interviewed with William Heine, who was vice president for construction operations for Charles Pankow Associates, the Honolulu-based subsidiary of CPI. He accepted a job offer and was assigned as the project superintendent on Windward Mall, a regional shopping center located in Kaneohe, Oahu—one of the many projects that Pankow built for Winmar, the real estate arm of Safeco Insurance.

Kunnath continued in his project superintendent role until 1983, when he was promoted to project sponsor. In this capacity, he worked out of the San Francisco office.

In 1988 Kunnath was promoted to vice president of business development. The following year, he was named executive vice president and regional manager for Northern California.

The promotion came just as the commercial construction market in California was entering a deep recession. The impact on business in the Northern California region was especially severe. San Francisco would not see another skyscraper built until the end of the 1990s. Crucially, as far as the prospects of the Pankow firm were concerned, the recession prompted changes in the way in which developers and owners secured the services of contractors.

The recession exposed weaknesses in Charlie Pankow’s business model, which relied on negotiating lump-sum contracts on private sector commercial projects for repeat clients. Kunnath led efforts to sustain the company by reorienting its business in a more service-oriented direction. He initiated a tenant improvement business that eventually expanded to include health care facility upgrades, seismic renovations, adaptive reuse of historically and architecturally significant structures, and other specialized products. In 1995 Pankow Special Projects, as the entity that encompassed this work was called, was established as a new division within the firm. The following year, Pankow Special Projects, Ltd. (PSPL), was established as a subsidiary company.

In 1999 Charlie Pankow named Kunnath president and CEO of the Pankow companies. In the wake of the death of Mr. Pankow, in January 2004, Kunnath was one of six executive managers who formed a controlling general partnership as part of a reorganization. By consensus of this group, Kunnath retained his position as CEO, continuing in this role until July 2012, when he became executive chairman of the board for Pankow Management, Inc.

Kunnath was closely involved with the establishment, in 1993, of the Design-Build Institute of America, a national trade association. In 1995 he served as the DBIA’s national chairman.


Advancing the Construction Industry through Innovation: The Charles Pankow Legacy Project. Accessed March 1, 2013.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

The Charles Pankow Foundation Collection on Charles Pankow

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 135
Scope and Contents The Charles Pankow Foundation collection on Charles Pankow reflects the life of Charles J. Pankow and his contribution to the construction industry. It is a compilation of news articles on Pankow himself, the people associated with Pankow Companies and Pankow Foundation, papers, projects undertaken by Pankow Group of Companies. Information regarding the biography of Charles Pankow, A Better Way to Build, is also included.
Dates: 1950 - 2014; Majority of material found within 1975 - 2012