Dunleith owner, real estate developer remembered as ‘great businessman’

Published 1:46 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2024

NATCHEZ – The New Orleans real estate developer who owns Dunleith Historic Inn and the former Margaret Martin school has died.

Joe Jaeger, 77, died Sunday in New Orleans from injuries sustained in a June 19 two-vehicle crash in Folsom.

According to Louisiana State Police, Jaeger was driving a 2024 GMC Terrain, attempting to turn from a private drive onto Louisiana Highway 25 when the crash took place shortly before 5:45 a.m. Jaeger’s vehicle was struck by an oncoming 2020 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, which could not avoid striking the front driver’s side of Jaeger’s SUV.

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Jaeger, who was raised in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, began his career as a plumber’s apprentice at 19 and by 25 had become president and CEO of MCC Group, a regional leader in construction and real estate development.

The J Collection, which falls under the MCC umbrella, owns and operates 19 hotels in New Orleans and surrounding areas, including Dunleith Inn in Natchez.

The J Collection purchased Dunleith in November 2019, when the property had been in foreclosure due to the previous owners’ bankruptcy.

At the time, Jeager said “We are honored to become the new stewards of Dunleith. This property has important historical significance to the community of Natchez, and we look forward to being a part of the historic community.”

The company invested more than $1 million in renovating Dunleith before purchasing the adjacent Margaret Martin school property from the city, with plans to develop it as well as part of the inn.

Jaeger’s long-term friends and associates, Mike Blattner and Randy Waesche, are partners in the project. Blattner owns and resides at the historic house Cherokee on High Street.

“Mr. Jaeger was a great businessman, family man, and community partner,” said Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson. “I truly enjoyed getting to know him and continued to have high hopes for his future involvement in our city. He and his partners, Mike Blattner and Randy Waesche, did so much to bring Dunleith back just after Covid, in spite of so many challenges. I’ll never forget being with him when he cut the ribbon on his amazing resort property, the Sheraton in Flowood, and I’ll always be grateful for his kindness to me and to Natchez. His loss has been heartbreaking, and our prayers are with his wife Becky, their family, and the many employees who loved working for him.”

Blattner, who was a longtime friend and business partner of Jaeger, said his passing “is a big loss to south Louisiana and Mississippi.”

Commenting that “they definitely threw the mold away with Joe,” he described his friend of 35 years as a driven businessman and “the kind of guy who would give you the shirt of your back if you needed it. If I’m going to hire someone in my business, I would want it to be someone like Joe.”

Blattner said he hopes Dunleith Historic Inn and the Natchez development work “can continue in the direction he started.”