Obituary: Milo Gates, president, Swinerton Builders | December 11, 2013 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - December 11, 2013

Obituary: Milo Gates, president, Swinerton Builders

The West Coast construction business lost an icon with the Dec. 1 death of Woodside resident Milo S. Gates, known as Ned to his family and friends.

Mr. Gates, who served as president and chairman of San Francisco-based Swinerton Builders, led in the construction of "dozens" of large-scale landmark buildings, including several towers in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Mr. Gates was 90.

"Ned was what I call the perfect gentleman," said Dave Grubb, the president of Swinerton while Mr. Gates was chairman. "He treated everyone so beautifully."

Mr. Gates grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and California. He attended the California Institute of Technology and graduated from Stanford University. He joined the Navy in 1944 and served on a submarine in the Sea of Japan on a mission to rescue downed Allied pilots.

Mr. Gates returned to Stanford for an MBA in 1948, joined Swinerton in 1955, and retired as chairman in 1996. Under his leadership, the company built major hotels in Honolulu, the office tower at 101 California St. in San Francisco, and the Modern Art and de Young museums in San Francisco.

His pastimes included sailing, driving wooden motor boats, fly fishing and organizing family vacations "that measured up to any skyscraper," his relatives said. Mr. Gates belonged to the Bohemian and the Pacific Union clubs. He married twice — to Anne Phleger in 1950 and to Robin (Binnie) Templeton Quist in 1988, both Woodside residents. Ms. Phleger died in 1987. Together, the couples had nine children.

Mr. Gates is survived by his wife Robin; daughters Elena Gates Motlow, Susan Gates Suman, Virginia Lewis and Anne Symington; son Milo Gates; three stepchildren; and 25 grandchildren.

Services will be private. Donations in Mr. Gates' name may be made to the California Academy of Sciences. Write to Janet Harris at or at 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco 94118.

Go to to see the full family obituary on the Almanac's Lasting Memories website.