In 1999, Susie Levin Rice made the hardest business decision of her life. She sold the family company, RMC Realty Cos., to Konover Property Trust, while staying on as president.

Last year, she made another difficult decision. When Konover started selling off assets, she bought it back. After merging with a firm owned by her husband, she says the business, now called RMC Property Group, is re-energized.

Rice grew up in the family business. She watched her dad and uncle build Tampa-based RMC and, willingly or not, she learned the business. But as many children who grow up in similar circumstances do, she wanted to see what else was out there. So, she tried her hand as a bank examiner with the Federal Reserve in New York. That lasted a year.

RMC, founded in 1972, originally specialized in apartments, but in the 1980s, began acquiring, leasing and managing shopping centers. In 1989, Rice's father, Leonard Levin, asked her to come back to Florida and join him in the business. She worked as a leasing agent for three or four years and, she says, as the company grew through acquisitions, got more involved in hiring and building the infrastructure. The experience came in handy when, in 1996, her father died. She was 29. In the aftermath, she bought out her uncle's share.

Cliff Walters, who has worked with the company as president of law firm Blalock Landers Walters & Vogler, says, in the beginning, Rice struggled with letting others run parts of the business. Rice says she was running a lot of the company by herself, but quickly realized she needed to surround herself with the right support. And Walters says she's accomplished that.

“She has some marvelous people that she empowered to help the organization to grow,” he says. “That takes leadership. It's certainly not just Susie's company. Some of the top people in this game are in her organization.”

One is her husband, Mitchell Rice, whom she has known since high school. They've been married since 1990 and have three children, ages 7, 6 and 2. Before he joined RMC, Mitchell Rice developed more than 80 Walgreens through FOG Development, which he co-founded in 1993.

After Rice bought back RMC from struggling Konover (she would not discuss terms of the deal), she and her husband decided their firms would have great synergy if they merged. Rice says the company has about 80 properties, which they either own, lease and/or manage, with more under development.

Walters isn't surprised. “I've known her and worked with her father for many years. Susie is very much her father's daughter. She's smart, creative and resolution-oriented.”