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Category ArchiveBrookfield Property Partners

Brookfield Property Partners Strikes Deal to Acquire GGP

Brookfield Property Partners is set to become the 100-percent owner of GGP, according to a joint news release issued today by the companies, after agreeing a deal to pick up the remaining 66 percent of the real estate investment trust and mall owner it does not own.

Brookfield, which is the largest real estate arm of parent company Brookfield Asset Management, upped the cash consideration of its unsuccessful November 2017 offer for GGP to $23.50 per share, from $23 per share previously. That results in a $1.85 billion increase in Brookfield’s aggregate cash offering for the mall REIT, to $9.25 billion from $7.4 billion. (The $23.50 per share price is a premium for GGP stock, which closed at $21.21 a share today.)

“Since receiving Brookfield’s initial proposal in November, [GGP’s] special committee has conducted extensive due diligence, specifically evaluating the optimal consideration structure for GGP’s shareholders,” said Daniel Hurwitz, the lead director and chairman of the GGP special committee tasked with evaluating Brookfield’s bid to acquire the company.

“After careful consideration, assisted by our independent advisers, the special committee determined that Brookfield’s improved proposal, which includes an increase in the cash portion of the consideration and the ability to receive shares in a newly listed REIT entity, provides GGP shareholders with certainty of value, as well as upside potential through ownership in a globally diversified real estate company,” Hurwitz said.

Upon approval of the acquisition by GGP shareholders, the combined Brookfield and GGP companies will have $90 billion in total assets and net operating income of more than $4 billion, according to the release. Under the terms of the deal, GGP shareholders can choose to receive $23.50 per share in cash, one Brookfield share or one unit of a new “BPY U.S. REIT.”

Brookfield, which already owned 34 percent of GGP, played a major role in helping the Chicago-based mall operator emerge out of bankruptcy in 2010.

“This is a compelling transaction that enables GGP shareholders to receive premium value for their shares and gives them the ability to participate in the long-term upside of their investment,” Brian Kingston, the CEO of Brookfield, said in a prepared statement. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement and are excited about combining Brookfield’s access to large-scale capital and deep operating expertise across multiple real estate sectors with GGP’s portfolio of irreplaceable retail assets.”

GGP hasn’t been Brookfield’s only acquisition target as of late.

Brookfield was reportedly in talks to acquire Forest City Realty Trust in January, but last week Forest City announced that it would re-organize its board rather than go through with a sale.

Additional reporting provided by Rebecca Baird-Remba.

Source: commercial

Brookfield Properties Exec James Malone Joins Colliers International

James Malone, a well-known commercial real estate executive in Los Angeles, has joined Colliers International as a senior managing director overseeing the firm’s South Bay and West L.A. offices, according to an official announcement from Colliers.

A former vice president of leasing with developer Brookfield Properties (an operating entity of Brookfield Property Partners) and broker with JLL, Malone will partner with Colliers Executive Managing Director Hans Mumper to expand the firm’s presence in both pivotal Los Angeles markets. The appointment is part of the brokerage’s stated five-year goal to double the size of its business by 2020.

Malone’s deals include one of the largest lease transactions of 2017, when anchor tenant Bank of America extended and expanded its lease at its namesake plaza at 333 South Hope Street in Bunker Hill, growing within Brookfield Property Partners’ 55-story, 1.4-million-square-foot property to 218,000 feet from 164,000. Brookfield did not reply to a request for comment.

Malone, who earlier in his career was responsible for the marketing and leasing of mixed-use projects built by Catellus Development in both L.A. and San Francisco, also served as an attorney at the law firm Haight, Brown & Bonesteel in L.A., where he specialized in commercial litigation. He received law degree from Loyola Law School in L.A. following his graduation from UCLA with a bachelor’s degreein economics. After four years at Catellus, Malone worked at JLL for a 10-year period ending in 2013, according to this LinkedIn profile, and then moved to Brookfield from October 2013 until starting his new gig at Colliers this month.

In addition to his background in real estate and law, Malone formerly was in the National Football League, where he played briefly for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns.

“There was no question in my mind that when James Malone, showed a strong interest in returning to the brokerage side of the business as a senior manager, someone who could partner with me in strengthening our efforts in our new West L.A. location and in the South Bay, there was no one else with his level of experience, or such a sterling reputation, in our pool of candidates,” Mumper told Commercial Observer. “He has everything it takes to succeed, including his work as a former top-producing broker for one of our major competitors, and even his experience as a practicing attorney. The fact that he attended UCLA, where he was a star linebacker for the Bruins’ football team for four years, may not immediately inure him to the many USC grads who work for us, but I think they’ll come around, too.”

Colliers greater Los Angeles presence includes its flagship office in Downtown Los Angeles, as well as offices in West Los Angeles, South Bay (El Segundo), Los Angeles North (Encino), Inland Empire (Ontario), Orange County (Irvine), Santa Clarita Valley (Valencia), and in the cities of Industry and Commerce with a total of 165 brokers, according to a company spokesman.

“The opportunity [at Colliers] fits with my long-term career goals,” Malone said. “My career was largely spent being a transaction person, executing deals. Colliers afforded me the opportunity to be in a leadership role in a global brokerage company.”

Malone, who lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife and two children, will oversee approximately 75 brokers in Colliers West Los Angeles office at 11911 San Vicente Boulevard and South Bay location at 2121 Rosecrans Avenue in El Segundo.

Source: commercial

David Cheikin Leaving Post as Head of NY and Boston Region for Brookfield

David Cheikin, an executive vice president and the head of the New York and Boston offices for Brookfield Property Partners, is leaving the company after nearly 16 years, Commercial Observer has learned.

He resigned earlier this month, according to a Brookfield spokesman, but has agreed to stay on through the end of March. According to the representative, Cheikin “is going to pursue other opportunities.” One source said Cheikin “is going to take a vacation and look around after that.”

According to Cheikin’s LinkedIn profile, he has had “overall responsibility for the performance of Brookfield’s 25-million-square-foot commercial portfolio, inclusive of asset management, office leasing, retail leasing, property marketing, property operations and on site arts/activation.”

Ric Clark, the senior managing partner and the chairman of Brookfield Property Partners, said of Cheikin’s departure in prepared remarks: “Dave leaves Brookfield having had a significant impact on our New York and Boston business over his 16-year tenure. Among many other things, he was instrumental in overseeing the redevelopment and leasing of Brookfield Place New York, which has been a tremendous success by every measure. He also played a vital role in helping to position Manhattan West to become one of New York City’s most dynamic places upon its completion.”

Effective April 1, Ben Brown, a senior vice president at Brookfield Properties, will assume Cheikin’s position, the Brookfield spokesman said.

“Ben has been with Brookfield since 2010 in various roles of increasing seniority, including head of New York and Boston acquisitions since his return last year from London, where he held a similar position,” the spokesman emailed.

Cheikin, who was an analyst and associate at JLL from June 1997 to May 2001, declined to comment through the company spokesman and didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

Source: commercial

MIPIM: US Experts Tell World America Is Loaded With Opportunities, So Act Fast

Those that attended Commercial Observer’s panel on United States real estate investing today—the second day of the annual MIPIM (or Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier) property conference in Cannes, France—were told there are ample deals to be made in America.

At the event “Developing & Investing in the United States: Where, What & How?” some of the most prolific developers and lenders in the U.S. told real estate professionals not to worry about reports of rising interest rates, to expand their horizons beyond premium “gateway” markets (like New York City or San Francisco) and to act quickly or risk losing the deal.

Brookfield Property Partners Senior Managing Partner and Chairman Ric Clark opened the event by talking about the three trends his company sees affecting the U.S. real estate market: booming population growth of urban areas; the rise of millennials and increases in innovation; and technology for properties.  

Expanding on the first point, Clark said that cities around the U.S. are projected to have 350 million residents in the year 2050, up from 125 million in 1960. In 2014, he said, that figure was 258 million people. 

“Growing urban populations clearly present major challenges, but also major opportunities for those in the real estate business,” Clark told the audience. “The new city dwellers are going to need places to live and work, new schools and hospitals and a massive investment infrastructure will also be required.”

Bruce Mosler, the chairman of global brokerage at Cushman & Wakefield, moderated the first panel about developers’ thoughts on the market, which included Hines CEO of Capital Markets and the East Region Christopher Hughes; SL Green Realty Corp. co-Chief Investment Officer Isaac Zion; and Eran Polack, CEO and co-founder of HAP Investments.

Mosler informed the crowd of the reduced investment activity in New York City and other U.S. gateway markets, which resulted in a 23 percent drop to $96 billion last year from $125 billion in 2016. Comparatively, total investment in non-gateway U.S. markets dropped to $300 billion in 2017 from $339 billion in the previous year—just a 3 percent dip.

Hughes mentioned that investors need not focus only on gateway cities, because there are great opportunities elsewhere in the country.

“It’s a default to look at the gateway cities,” Hughes said. “As you start to look at the U.S. markets you should pay attention to the broader U.S. markets. You’ll make a mistake if you come to the U.S. and think there are only three cities to invest in. Follow the education [centers]; follow the underlying demand drivers.”

Zion pointed out that foreign investors need to understand that deals in the U.S. happen fast, so they need to be decisive.

“The quick ‘yes’ is always the best answer,” he said. “The quick ‘no’ is almost as good. It’s the long, long ‘maybe’ which unfortunately happens way too often. And if you are in that position you are not going to be able to act on potential opportunities.”

The second panel, moderated by Jonathan Mechanic, the chairman of the law firm real estate department at Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, focused on lenders’ views of the U.S. market, and featured panelists Michael Shields, a managing director of ING Real Estate Finance; Christoph Donner, CEO of Allianz Real Estate of America; and Alexander Joerg, a managing director and head of real estate finance at Landesbank Baden-Württemberg.

Since capitalization rates—the expected rate of return on a project—are higher in the U.S. than in major European markets, investors can see a lot of upside, Shields said.

“You are breaking 3 [percent] caps in Paris and Berlin, so our risk guys when they see a 5 [percent cap rate], even though the base rate is higher, they like the U.S.,” Shields said. “And it’s such a big market. There are so many deals compared to [Europe]. London and Paris are the only two markers that have deal flow that compares to the U.S. So we could be a lot more selective and cherry pick a bit and figure out where we can actually compete.”

And since interest rates are climbing, now is the time to act, said Donner, who suspects that the movement in rates will boost deals.

“I think we are going to see more volume just because rising interest rates [means] it’s time now for clients to lock in rates for the long term,” he said, “because on a really long-term perspective these are ultra-low rates.”

Source: commercial

In Cannes for MIPIM, Brookfield’s Ric Clark Is All NYC

Brookfield Property Partners is no doubt one of the most active developers in New York City.

The firm recently completed the redevelopment of its 8.5-million-square-foot Brookfield Place office and retail complex in Lower Manhattan, a $250 million project it commenced in 2015. Today the property is nearly entirely leased. And the developer is building at an aggressive pace the more than 7-million-square-foot Manhattan West project.

The company is also is a partner on Park Tower Group’s 22-acre Greenpoint Landing mixed-use development in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. And on top of that, the developer recently picked up the leasehold of the HBO Building at 1100 Avenue of the Americas along with Swig Company and signed most of the space to Bank of America (386,000 square feet). In addition, Brookfield and Swig recently signed Bank of America to a 127,000-square-foot space at their adjacent property, the Grace Building at 1114 Avenue of the Americas.

Commercial Observer caught up with Ric Clark, the senior managing partner and the chairman of Brookfield, while in Cannes for his very first MIPIM (or Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier). His main order of business at the conference: talking about trends in the United States on a U.S. panel co-organized by CO.

But we got to talk to him about the status of the firm’s projects, Brookfield’s investment in on-demand conference space provider Convene and the company’s recent—so far unsuccessful—attempts to acquire General Growth Properties, Forest City Realty Trust and Regus parent company IWG.

Commercial Observer: You have a lot of things going on in New York City. What is the status of Greenpoint Landing, Brookfield’s foray into the outer boroughs?

So the first building opens up in August. I think it’s just shy of 400 units. The second tower will open in 2020 and we hope that we have two more towers coming up on the heels of those.

Park Tower Group brought Brookfield in to do that project. What attracted you to it?

It really started with a desire to expand our presence in the multifamily business. Up until roughly six years ago we really didn’t have any investments in the apartment sector. But looking back it’s been one of the best performing sectors, particularly in New York City—vacancy is very low—tenants tend to stay for a couple of years, and when they do leave the capital expenses are pretty modest unlike an office tenant. Granted stay longer, but when they leave it is a major capital reinvestment to retenant the space. So the first building that we built was The Eugene [with 844 units] at Manhattan West. We are closing in on 80 percent leased now, and it hasn’t even been open [for a year]. So basically on the heels of that and making a decision to enter the multifamily space, we looked around and thought, Brooklyn was a great alternative to Manhattan. It’s cheaper, so more affordable, and there is a lot happening in Brooklyn.

What’s going on at Manhattan West?

So 5 Manhattan West, formerly  known as 450 West 33rd Street, started as an apparel warehouse—at one point it had the Sky Rink—we were able to convert that and put a new facade, new lobby, new systems and take what was once the ugliest building in Manhattan and make it into a pretty attractive building, which is appealing to those in the innovation and technology businesses. So that [1.7-million-square-foot] building is effectively fully leased at this point.  

One Manhattan West is going up. We did 1.8 million square feet of leasing [at Manhattan West] last year so overall between 5 Manhattan West, 1 Manhattan West and The Lofts building, which is a 200,000-square-foot building that we are repurposing there as well, we are 92.3 percent leased across the project. So we had a really big year there last year.

What else did you do there?

We are about to break ground on a [30-story, 164-room] hotel. We haven’t yet announced the operator. But we hope too soon. So the remaining piece is to lease out the retail. We have signed a couple of retail deals already—like Whole Foods

So the only thing left is 2 Manhattan West—the south tower—where we are actively pursuing tenants. We have started the below-grade work [on that building].

With everything happening in Hudson Yards District, is Midtown East dead?

Between us and Hudson Yards there has been a lot of momentum over there in the last couple of years. [But] the east is not finished yet. There is a bit of a nuclear arms race going on when it comes to upgrading buildings that are somewhat obsolete [in Midtown East]. I think it’ll make those buildings more appealing. Those that don’t spend the capital to reposition their buildings and enhance them, I think are going to struggle a lit bit. But the east is not dead. We just saw the J.P. Morgan announcement [to build new Park Avenue headquarters], which was pretty huge for Park Avenue.  

It’s not exactly Midtown East, but your company now has two buildings off Bryant Park with the Grace Building and the recently acquired neighboring 1100 Avenue of the Americas. Why did you want the adjacent property?

Adjacent and back connected to the Grace Building is the HBO Building, 1100 Avenue of the Americas. There is literally a floor where you could walk from one building to the other.

Interestingly, someone along the chain of ownership built what I’m going to call a “spite wall” on the back of the HBO Building. So when we acquired the Grace Building there was this solid wall that went literally up the north side of the HBO Building.

We were the only one’s pursuing the acquisition of 1100 Avenue of the Americas that could remove that wall [since we also owned the Grace Building], and basically connect the Grace Building plaza to Bryant Park with a renovation of the lobby. The other advantage that we had on that building [1100 Avenue of the Americas] than others is that the building does not have a loading dock. So you literally had to pull a truck up in the middle of the night and offload it to bring goods into the building. We can connect the building to the Grace Building’s loading dock underground.

We saw this as an opportunity to help Bank of America [which is the anchor of 1 Bryant Park] create an urban campus. So they leased the bulk of 1100 [Avenue of the Americas], and also have taken some space in the Grace Building as well.

How is Brookfield Place doing?

So we’ve leased up all of the retail space and the project is 8.5 million square feet and 95 percent leased [in both office and retail]. And I just looked at the [2017] year-end sales numbers before I came here and it had very strong same-store sales.

It really has exceeded our expectations. You can go there on a Friday night, it’ll be crowded. You could go there on a Saturday morning, it’ll be crowded. And it’s a difference; the crowd takes on a different complexion on any day of the week. Sunday morning you’ll see a bunch of dads and strollers. And we are really proud of it.

We’ve heard millennials are to blame for the death of malls. How is Brookfield preparing for the influx of millennials that will reshape the economy?

In a year or two, millennials will make up 50 percent of the world’s working population. And by 2030, it’ll make up 70 percent. So for sure, I think those in the real estate business that are paying attention to that are making adjustments to their real estate to help employees attract, maintain and motivate employees will be more successful.

This crowd was basically born with a smartphone in their hands. And they want everything immediately and they want it efficiently, so we’ve been bringing a lot of innovation and technology to our “places.”

What specifically?

For example, at Brookfield Place we are beta testing an app that will package a bunch of other apps that will provide convenience to those that work within our project. You will soon be able to get in and out of the building by using your smartphone instead of a plastic badge. You will receive security alerts on a moment’s notice if there is some kind of terrorism event or some kind of emergency.

We noticed that when we opened Hudson Eats [in Brookfield Place], between the lunch hours the lines were so long that people were actually turning away. So we found an app called Ritual, with which you can sit at your desk, decide where you want to order your food from, you order your food, the food is prepared, they give you a notice when it is ready. They’ll also let you know if someone else on your floor or in your building is going down to pick up food from there and [inform you if] they’ll bring the food back to you.

Within a couple of months 25 percent of the people that work within Brookfield Place downloaded this app, and sales for the stores that use it went up 25 percent as well. So we are trying to wrap all of those with a Brookfield app just to make the overall experience just as seamless and efficient as we can.

And this is only for Brookfield Place?

We’ve been beta testing this whole thing at Brookfield Place so once we get the bugs out and its working efficiently, we’ll roll it out across the world.

How did you get to know Convene and why is Brookfield so heavily investing in it?

I got a phone call once from a CEO of [Hudson’s Bay Company]—one of our tenants—after we signed a lease with him, saying, “I’m sitting here with my architect and I’m planning my space and I’m planning a boardroom, which I am literally going to use once a quarter. And if you had something where I could rent a catered conference room once a quarter, I could use my space that I rented from you for more productive things.”

And he introduced us to Convene. And we understood the merits of it immediately.

On the one hand, I’m sure our leasing group would rather rent more space to somebody even if it is sitting idle, but I think those that listen to their tenants and solve their tenants’ problems as they relate to efficiency will be more successful.

How much has Brookfield invested in Convene?

We are the largest shareholder now. We sign leases with them in some of our buildings and we do management agreements with them as well. So we think wherever we can work a Convene into our projects it’s a great amenity—one that tenants will respond positively to.

Work space as a service has become huge business with players like WeWork, IWG (Regus) and Convene. Are you afraid that they will take business from traditional landlords?

So for our office business primarily we are in the big-bulk leasing business. So we don’t have a lot of small tenants in our facilities… And for sure the smaller tenants I think—particularly those in a start-up business—need flexibility and I think WeWork or IWG provides that flexibility for those tenants that don’t want to sign a 10-year lease because their business may be very different in a couple of years. I think there is room for both of these. And we are working with a coworking or flexible angle within many of our projects around the world.

Although they have been unsuccessful so far, why has Brookfield made moves to acquire GGP, Forest City Realty and IWG?

So I can’t comment on specific transactions. But I would say [Brookfield Property Partners parent company] Brookfield Asset Management’s real estate business has about $150 billion of assets under management and we got to that scale through [mergers and acquisitions] activity. So we are always looking for mispriced or undervalued opportunities—opportunities where we think either through a better capital structure or because of our operating capabilities or some idea that we have or some synergies with some or our other businesses, we can acquire a business and create value. And I’d say, in all of those transactions that is what we are really focused on. As for the specific ones that you mentioned, we will see.

Source: commercial

Northwood in the Running to Acquire HNA’s 245 Park Avenue

A number of firms, including Northwood Investors, are in the running to acquire HNA Group’s 245 Park Avenue, several sources with knowledge of the situation told Commercial Observer.

One Chinese bank official who spoke to CO said that while there are many potential suitors for 245 Park, it’s unclear whether HNA is willing to accept a price at the current market value—which many expect will be significantly below that which the conglomerate paid for it in 2017.

HNA purchased the 1.8-million-square-foot office tower at 245 Park Avenue for a whopping $2.2 billion from Brookfield Property Partners in May 2017 and is now on the verge of unloading the asset less than a year later.

This deal would come on the heels of Northwood scooping up HNA’s 386,921-square-foot 1180 Avenue of the Americas for $305 million on Feb. 15, financing the bulk of the transaction with a $237 million loan from the Royal Bank of Canada. HNA acquired the property in 2011 for $259 million from the Carlyle Group, according to property records.

In June 2017, HNA, the former airline-turned-conglomerate, was one of four major Chinese investment arms identified by the Chinese government to have borrowed too aggressively for offshore transactions. A month later, Chinese President Xi Jinping and China’s State Council levied restrictions on any future investment in overseas real estate and ordered those conglomerates to begin liquidating some of the major real estate assets they acquired.

An executive of a prominent New York-based landlord previously told CO that “the Chinese have had the outlier bid for a few years, and that’s what’s upped bid prices. Now that it’s removed itself from the market, it has to settle itself with price discovery.” The movement of 245 Park may be the start of that discovery.

Officials at Northwood were not immediately available for comment.

With additional reporting provided by Cathy Cunningham.

Source: commercial

Euro Retailers Sense Opportunity Here While US Brands Look to Old World for Salvation

Last week, while JLL retail pro Michael Hirschfeld was in London for business, he learned of three U.K. retailers collapsing.

Those were the U.K. arm of Toys “R” Us, which went into insolvency administration, Maplin Electronics, which failed to find a buyer to get it out of administration, and dining chain Prezzo, which is being restructured. In addition, the 600-fleet London fashion chain New Look is looking to make deals with landlords to close underperforming stores and reduce rents.

The news sounds eerily similar to headlines in the U.S. as bankruptcies, e-commerce and the popularity of discount department and specialty stores have impacted the retail business on both sides of the pond.

“I think the retail challenges are universal,” said Hirschfeld, a vice chairman of national retail tenant services at JLL who spends 80 percent of his time bringing retailers from Europe to the U.S. and vice versa.

This comes, however, with a big caveat.

It is often said that what happens in the U.S. market will then follow in Continental Europe and Great Britain. But JLL warned in a retail report comparing the U.S. and Europe at the end of 2017, “we shouldn’t assume markets automatically mirror each other.”

In Europe, and the U.K. in particular, retailers braced themselves for the change in shopping patterns due to e-commerce faster and earlier than did their U.S. counterparts, according to the JLL report.

And beyond the internet, there are clear differences between the two markets.

One of the big ones is the sheer amount of retail space available in the U.S., in large part due to an excessive number of shopping centers. In the U.S., there is 13,713 square feet of leasable shopping center space per 1,000 people, JLL determined at the end of last year. In the U.K., by contrast, there is 3,175 square feet per 1,000 people, and in Europe as a whole, there is 2,335 square feet.

And the European retailers smell the opportunity—many view the U.S. as if “it’s on sale,” Hirschfeld said. “You’re seeing rent levels that you could achieve in the financial crisis. It’s a very opportune time. The demand is super strong.”

Hirschfeld brokered deals to bring British clothing company Superdry to various cities in the U.S. and is working on a deal for British toy store Hamleys to come to New York City. Accessories brand Furla, which comes from Milan and already has a store in Manhattan, is expanding with a new lease in Aventura Mall in Miami, Fla. (one of the top malls in the country), and one in the Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas (another top U.S. mall) with likely another three or four more in major markets, he said of his client.

Susan Kurland, an executive vice president and a co-head of global retail services at Savills Studley, said that the difference between retail in Europe and the U.S. is the vacancies.

“The difference is their spaces are filled,” Kurland said. “You walk down our Madison Avenue, and almost every store on Madison Avenue is available.”

She is working with a high-end Chinese-owned Milan-based company, which is looking to enter the U.S.

“[The owner] feels the only places to expand are China and the U.S. as those are the two most important markets,” the broker said. “They’re in…the exclusive places in China. They’re on the important street in Milan. He feels that the U.S. is really important for his expansion.”

While there will be more store closures in Europe, JLL determined that the continent is “unlikely to experience the sheer volume of closures currently being forecast in the U.S.”

Another distinction between the U.S. and Europe is that most of Europe employs a high-street model rather than a shopping-center model. Furthermore, in shopping centers, the U.S. has relied on department store anchors (which have been one of the worst victims of e-commerce and commoditization), JLL noted. In Europe, on the other hand, shopping mall owners have been quick to switch gears with their anchor tenants, often turning to food-and-beverage concepts, and they are more diverse in their offerings.

Yet another important difference between European and U.S. leases is the rent structure. In the U.S., when a tenant signs a lease it knows what the rent is for the entire term. In the U.K., for example, you may sign a 10-year deal, but every couple of years you go through a fair-market rent review process, Hirschfeld said, so you don’t know your rent.

But one thing both places have in common is that consumers have so many options for how they want to shop.

“We’re seeing across the board a fragmentation of distribution,” said Betsy McCullar of Hilltop Alliance, who develops and executes marketing and strategy solutions for brands and businesses. “Western Europe is even more fragmented than the United States because, for example, the U.K. and Germany—and France, to some extent—have a big mature structure of department stores. But Italy and Spain are still dominated by one-off specialty stores.”

Among the European brands that are on the fast track in the U.S. are fast-fashion brands Swedish Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), Zara from Spain and the U.K.-based Reiss Ltd., The Wall Street Journal reported in May 2017. Amsterdam-based Scotch & Soda is also popping up in the U.S. with 28 free-standing retail stores, with a store at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley, N.Y. opening on March 30. European discounters like German grocer Aldi, German competitor Lidl and Irish clothing company Primark are on a tear in the U.S., Bloomberg Gadfly pointed out last October. International cosmetics companies like Rituals from Amsterdam are taking New York City by storm. Plus there are food chains like Wagamama, an Asian food concept that actually hails from London, that has set up shop in New York City and Boston.

When entering the U.S., European retailers focus on major cities for entrée.

Since they’re used to high streets at home, European retailers want to rent on a U.S. high street. And they generally enter by way of one of the gateway markets of New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Las Vegas, Hirschfeld said. They often choose a U.S. location that is most similar to where they hail from, Hirschfeld said.

“Brands usually like to do either the East Coast or the West Coast initially, and I believe that most start on the East Coast first,” said Robin Abrams, a vice chairman of retail at Eastern Consolidated, with New York City being a priority due to its tourist population, ease of navigation, walkability and great public transportation. For U.K. retailers, New York is logical, Abrams said, “because it is more similar” than other places in the U.S.

Interestingly, CBRE’s most recent annual global retail report highlighted Philadelphia as a target city for international retailers in 2016. That year, Italian furniture company Natuzzi Italia and Superdry set up shop in Philadelphia, the fifth-largest city in the U.S. The market was appealing, the report said, because of its increased millennial population, income growth, new multihousing developments, burgeoning food and retail scene and reputation as a tourist destination.

But there’s no refuting that New York City often is the beau ideal market for European retailers looking to expand abroad.

21 Euro Retailers Sense Opportunity Here While US Brands Look to Old World for Salvation
SUITING UP: EUROPEAN WOMEN’S STORE SUITSTUDIO HAS FARED WELL IN BROOKFIELD PLACE SINCE OPENING LAST NOVEMBER. Photo: Brookfield Property Partners

“Retailers looking for a first or second opportunity look at New York,” said Mark Kostic, a vice president of retail leasing in the U.S. at Brookfield Property Partners. “Everyone’s next step is a global flagship in New York.”

Kostic worked on the deal to bring European suitmaker Suitsupply to Brookfield Place. The brand has fared well since the men’s store opened about a year ago, and the women’s store Suitstudio opened this past November, he said.

Jason Pruger, an executive managing director at Newark Knight Frank, said he will be helping Black Sheep Coffee expand from London into the U.S. come springtime. He anticipates that Black Sheep will enter the country by way of New York City.

“We are looking to expand in the U.S. because we have be inundated with customer requests, particularly in the last few months—mostly Americans living in the U.K. or who came across Black Sheep while visiting the U.K.,” said Gabriel Shohet, one of the co-founders of Black Sheep Coffee. “New York City has many Black Sheep fans but is one of four U.S. cities [including Chicago, Washington, D.C.. and Atlanta] we have shortlisted as a potential starting base for a U.S. market entry.”

Faith Hope Consolo, the chairman of Douglas Elliman’s retail leasing, marketing and sales division, said that New York City is “the shopping capital of the world, and the No. 1 leisure activity in this country is shopping. Yes, New York City is the center of the world. Companies are willing to risk everything to make it here. Just like the song goes, ‘If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.’ ”

Going the other way, U.S. retailers often start in London for their European expansion, where English is the native language. Indeed, companies from the U.S. marked the majority of new international retail entrants to London in 2016, according to CBRE’s global retail report. (Hirschfeld called London “probably the retail capital of the Europe in many ways.”)

But London is desirable for just about any retailer looking to make an entrance on a global stage. “Overseas brands continue to see London as the pathway to greater expansion” in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, or EMEA, the CBRE report said. London was the second most-targeted market globally for international retailers entering new markets in 2016 (behind Hong Kong) and 10 markets in EMEA made the list of 19 global cities with the greatest international retailer presence. And this was the year of the Brexit vote for the U.K. to leave the European Union, so presumably the vote did not rock anybody’s faith in London retail.

At the end of last year, New York-based high-end fitness brand Equinox opened its first standalone E by Equinox location—an even higher-end Equinox—in central London. “Opening our first standalone E by Equinox in one of the most esteemed neighborhoods in London was only fitting,” Gentry Long, the managing director of U.K. operations for Equinox, said in a press release in December 2017. “We’re thrilled to introduce an elevated take on the private members’ establishment with fitness at its core.”

Some in-demand cities for U.S. retailers going abroad are Germany’s Munich, Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfort for fashion brands and food and beverage brands, Hirschfeld said. And there’s Paris, France and Milan, Italy. He has not seen a lot of demand for a Spain brick-and-mortar location.

In the last coupe of years, Hirschfeld’s team has brought Detroit-founded Shinola watch, bicycle and leather company to London. And his team brought Seattle-based outerwear company Filson to London.

“What you must look at when you’re looking throughout Europe, or Asia or South America is products that are transferrable to other markets,” Virginia Pittarelli, a principal of Crown Retail Services whose clients have included Sephora and Godiva, told Commercial Observer late last year.“That’s really the key.”

Source: commercial

Scotiabank Subleases From Hudson’s Bay at Brookfield Place

Toronto-based financial institution Scotiabank has subleased 50,000 square feet at Brookfield Place from Canadian retail conglomerate Hudson’s Bay Company.

Scotiabank, also known as the Bank of Nova Scotia, took a full floor from Hudson’s Bay at 250 Vesey Street, where it already occupies 100,000 square feet on the 23rd and 24th floors. The new floor wasn’t immediately clear, but the 186-year-old firm took the space that is contiguous with its current offices, according to The Real Deal, which first reported news of the lease.

Asking rent was $60 a square foot, TRD reported, but the length of the lease wasn’t available.

Hudson’s Bay and Scotia Bank didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

Scotia Bank first moved into 250 Vesey Street in 2013, after decamping from another Brookfield Property Partners-owned office tower, 1 Liberty Plaza.

Hudson’s Bay, which is the parent company of Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue, signed on for 166,000 square feet at 250 Vesey and 233,000 at 225 Liberty Street in 2014. However, it has been quietly shopping four floors at 250 Vesey after announcing plans to lay off 2,000 employees, TRD noted.

Source: commercial

USA Arm of Spirits Giant Moving to Grace Building From San Fran

Campari America, the U.S. arm of the spirits company Campari Group, has signed a 10-year, 64,658-square-foot lease at Brookfield Property Partners and The Swig Company’s Grace Building to relocate its headquarters from San Francisco.  

The company, known for brands like Skyy Vodka and Wild Turkey, has been based in San Francisco since 1992. It will occupy the entire 18th and 19th floors in the 48-story building between West 42nd and West 43rd Street near Bryant Park when it moves in the fall, according to a news release from Brookfield.

The entire U.S. team, comprising 165 employees, is moving to the building, which has an official address of 1114 Avenue of the Americas.

Campari executives expect the new location will boost its connectivity with its other offices, as it puts the Grace Building office closer to its worldwide Milan headquarters, and operations in Kentucky, Jamaica, Mexico and Canada, according to Jean Jacques Dubau, the managing director of Campari Group’s business unit in North America.

“This move will help to increase collaboration with key business partners and our Milan counterparts; allow us to more easily hire candidates with deep spirits experience; and give us the room to expand as we grow our portfolio of premium brands,” Dubau said in a prepared statement.

Gensler has been selected to design the new Campari America office. Colliers International’s Joseph Cabrera, David Glassman, Tim Kuhn, Brendan Cavender and Steve Maneri handled the deal for Campari America. CBRE’s Ken Rapp, Sarah Pontius, Peter Turchin, Zak Snider and Cara Chayet represented Brookfield. Spokespersons for the brokerages did not immediately return requests for comment.

The asking rent in the deal was not immediately clear. However, in a recent Bank of America deal at the 1.6-million-square-foot tower, the starting rent was $70s per square foot, as Commercial Observer previously reported. And Humanscale, a designer and manufacturer of office products, signed a 33,000-square-foot lease to move its headquarters to the Grace Building. The asking rent in that deal was in the high-$80s per square foot, as CO reported last month.

Retail tenants in the building include Gabriel Kreuther, Bluestone Lane, Joe & the Juice, Sweetgreen and STK.

Source: commercial

How a Rivalry Between VTS’ Romito and Hightower’s Weber Turned Into a Bromance

It was over a beer in the summer of 2016 that Nick Romito and Brandon Weber knew that they were meant to be together.

From there, the pair did a series of double dates—a brunch and two dinners—with their respective partners, and those meetings were just as positive.

It shouldn’t have worked: Romito and Weber had a rivalry going as strong as that of Coke and Pepsi, or the Red Sox and Yankees, or DC and Marvel.

Romito had founded VTS (formerly called View the Space), a leasing and asset management platform, in 2012. Weber’s Hightower came on the scene a year later doing a lot of the same stuff. But whatever bad feelings they might have had evaporated.

“We’re all like, ‘This is unbelievable how similar we all are,’ but even where we’re different, those are actually filling gaps that both companies have, so it was a super synergistic thing,” Romito said during an interview along with Weber at their offices last week. “We got along, the visions lined up, and we just said, ‘Alright, this is something worth further pursuing.’ ”

So Romito and Weber merged their commercial leasing and asset management platform startups in a $300 million all-stock deal on Nov. 29, 2016.

They retained Romito’s company’s name, VTS, and its New York City offices at 114 West 41st Street. Romito kept his CEO title and Weber, the CEO of Hightower, became VTS’ chief product officer.

In the year since, the bromance has bloomed with Romito and Weber singing each other’s praises—a far cry from the premerger days when they were trying to one-up each other to win business.

As a combined commercial real estate tech platform, VTS has expanded its reach with more than 180 new clients last year (three quarters of which are landlords and one quarter of which is brokerages). The number of customers jumped by 87 percent to 28,000 in 28 countries, and VTS saw a 112 percent increase to 7 billion square feet (in over 49,000 buildings) in office, retail and industrial space managed on the platform. Office properties comprise 50 percent of the platform—retail makes up about 10 percent, and industrial constitutes the rest, according to Weber.

“We’re averaging almost 300 million square feet a month,” Weber said. “The entire New York office market is 450 million square feet, so on a monthly basis, we’re adding two-thirds of the entire Manhattan office market. It’s been great. We’re now really hitting this tipping point where I think the broader industry kind of recognizes and buys into our vision.”

While the 200-person VTS has managed to grow in the year since the merger, the executives committed a lot of time to the integration of two very different work environments.

“[VTS had] a really, really strong sales organization [and] a strong methodology,” Weber said. “I think Hightower brought more seniority around the technology side.”

Zach Aarons, a co-founder and partner at real estate tech accelerator MetaProp NYC, said Romito and Weber “were dogmatically hyperfocused on integration in 2017.” That meant establishing a climate that would combine VTS’ old-school broker culture with Hightower’s more product-focused Silicon Valley ethos all while blending employees (and cutting 35 to 50 jobs, Romito said) and technologies.

The merging of the two companies has cleared the playing field, except for some competition from technology like Yardi’s Commercial Leasing Pad, billed as a mobile leasing and tenant support solution, and RealPage, which provides property management software solutions.

Meanwhile, it is not any one technology company or platform that presents the biggest hurdle for VTS in the marketplace.

“The No. 1 competitor factually is still Excel—it’s spreadsheets without a doubt,” Romito said.

Weber added, “When you’re talking about who we’re selling into—and we’re having conversations with landlords of all sizes, brokerages of all sizes—85 percent of the time still to this day…they just have nothing. So we’re taking them from this kind of really shitty world where they’ve got 1,000 spreadsheets, and a CEO asks a question, and it takes them two weeks to get the answer to the question. We’re their platform that they buy to better manage acquiring, converting and retaining their tenants.”

The commercial real estate world has long been considered slow to embrace new technology, but in recent years landlords, who make up the bulk of the VTS customer base, are investing their venture capital funds directly and indirectly into new real estate tech companies. Some are even developing their own in-house technology. VTS, for example got a big plug when real estate private equity funds managed by Blackstone invested $3.3 million in the company in January 2015.

A lot of landlords and office and retail brokers still don’t know what VTS is or don’t use it.

“We have an old (electronic) system that we created,” said Chris Conlon, COO of Acadia Realty Trust in an email. “We are reinventing it now. I have never found that canned software serves us effectively.”

Another landlord, who requested anonymity, said his “asset managers have a system that generates reports, and they have lease abstracts on file. The leasing team keeps up to date via Excel.”

A retail broker at a prominent firm said in an email, “Owners we deal with use it. Never had the patience to learn it.”

But then there was developer, mall owner and property manager Time Equities, which decided to sign on with VTS last May, putting 5.5 million square feet of retail space in the U.S. on the platform. The company, said Ami Ziff, the director of national retail at Time Equities, was “looking for transparency on our retail portfolio.”

Specifically, Ziff said, Time Equities “wanted to be able to understand at different points in time who are largest tenants are, who’s growing, who’s shrinking. You want when you are on the phone to pull up where else a tenant is. I’d have to remember or our broker would have to look it up. There’s human error and immediacy issues with that. For sales, it has a functional sales tracking interface so you can track, summarize, view, estimate and average different sales numbers.”

It also allows users to track “salient lease clause provisions,” Ziff said. For example, he said, “it’ll prompt you if you are going to lease a space that has a neighbor with a right of first refusal or a restriction against a certain use.”

two guys How a Rivalry Between VTS Romito and Hightowers Weber Turned Into a Bromance
A BIGGER PLATFORM: Nick Romito, top, and Brandon Weber, bottom, have joined forces with a combined VTS after years of competing for clients in the commercial leasing and asset management business. Photo: Sasha Maslov/ for Commercial Observer

Another notable company that signed on with VTS post-merger was Brookfield Property Partners, which put its North American office space on the VTS platform in the last quarter of 2017. That amounts to 84 million square feet of office space in the U.S., Canada, London (excluding Canary Wharf) and Dubai. Now Brookfield’s industrial group is looking at adapting the technology, Kevin Danehy, the global head of corporate development for Brookfield, said.

Brookfield had been looking for a “centralized database to manage our portfolio of tenants both at the local level and across the portfolio,” Danehy said. And the landlord wanted to automate its internal approval systems, which VTS does.

The merger between VTS and Hightower ended up being a boon for Brookfield as it faced the conundrum of which firm to select.

“We felt it was one plus one equals three when they combined,” Danehy said.

So far the younger Brookfield employees have been quicker to embrace the technology than the old guard, he said.

One feature that Brookfield hope VTS will build out is its customer relationship management system, or CRM. That is an area where VTS faces more competition from the likes of Apto, Salesforce and MRI.

“Apto is built just for brokers, so our software is focused entirely on streamlining their workflows so they can find new business and work their deals,” said Tanner McGraw, the founder and chief strategy officer for Apto. “Think CRM but without the hassle.”

Indiana shopping center owner and operator Regency Properties is relying on VTS to track the performance of its entire 6-million-square-foot retail portfolio since September 2016. Prior, the leasing team relied on anecdotal information, emails, status meetings and Microsoft Dynamics CRM to do their job. (The property management arm at Regency still uses the Microsoft software package.)

The first thing Dan Brandon, the director of leasing at Regency Properties, does when he gets into the office is pull up Microsoft Outlook and VTS. Those two applications remain on his two computer monitors all day.

VTS has saved the company time communicating within the organization and allows company executives to view a portfolio in real time.

VTS’ strength is on the supply side of the market with more than a dozen countries represented on the platform, Weber said, including one of Australia’s biggest landlords, AMP. It serves its clients from offices in New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas and London, and the U.K. is its fastest growing market, Romito noted. (Hightower and VTS both had London offices in the same WeWork space but on different floors.) VTS even lists property for the Crown Estate, which manages real estate that is passed from British monatch to monarch on accession.

Down the line, Romito and Weber hope to provide market analytics to their clients and establish a way for all parties in a deal to communicate via VTS.

“Today, you’re emailing each other for weeks at a time, actual Word documents. You are then going into VTS and putting in the information and figuring out what the actual numbers mean. Then, you go back into a Word document and put in your response, emailing it,” Romito said.

Weber added, “We’re a long ways down the road of modernizing the experience, the analytics, the tools that the landlord and the listing agent and the property manager have for their side of the business. We haven’t yet embarked on creating a really awesome experience for the tenant rep and the tenant side, so those two sides can connect in the VTS platform.”

MetaProp NYC’s Aarons anticipated this year VTS could expand into another asset type like multifamily (although he said, “That’d be a heavy technological lift”), buy a technology company or launch in Asia or other parts of Continental Europe.

Romito told CO that VTS has “no plans to go into multifamily this year,” but “in terms of acquisitions, M&A is a real part of our go-forward strategy, and we’re constantly looking at interesting products we could possibly deploy.” As for geography, he added, “We’re more focused on Continental Europe than we are on Asia at the moment. However, we do think there are significant opportunities in Asia in the future. Our focus continues to be on building our business in North America and the U.K.”

How about an initial public offering for VTS?

“There are a lot of variables you have to take into consideration when exploring the possibility of going public including market conditions, growth strategy, reporting transparency, etc.,” Romito said. “We’re probably a few years out from making that decision.”

Source: commercial