Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A friend who has made a difference in the commercial real estate industry: Tom Delatour, Jr.

Tom Delatour, Jr. is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Century Bridge Capital.

Tom has lived in Beijing since 2007 and oversees all of Century Bridge's investment activities in China.

Prior to co-founding Century Bridge, Tom was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of RMB Realty, Inc., overseeing the real estate investments of the Robert M. Bass organization. In this role, he led investments in Carr Realty Corporation, Paragon Group, Inc., Capstar Hotel Company and The Mendik Company, Inc. Tom served on the Board of Directors of each of these companies. Carr Realty Corporation, Paragon Group, Inc. and Capstar Hotel Company each were subsequently taken public, while The Mendik Company was sold to Vornado Realty Trust.

In addition to investing in real estate operating companies at RMB Realty, Tom oversaw the acquisition and disposition of approximately 5 million square feet of office buildings in mid-town Manhattan between 1998 and 2004, and was also active in the 1998 acquisition of numerous Japanese properties through Da Vinci I Corp. Y.K. In the early 1990s, he oversaw the acquisition and disposition of 7 billion dollars in book value of real estate assets purchased from the Resolution Trust Corporation.

Before joining RMB Realty in 1988, Tom served as Vice President of Finance, Southeast Region, for Lincoln Property Company. Prior to joining Lincoln Property Company in 1981, he was an auditor at Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. (now KPMG).

Tom is a past Chairman of the Urban Development/Mixed Use Council of The Urban Land Institute and is a past Trustee of The Urban Land Institute. He is a Co-Founder and past Chairman of the Advisory Council for the Real Estate Finance and Investment Center at The University of Texas at Austin and currently sits on its Executive Committee. In addition, he is a member of the Foundation Advisory Council for the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas in Austin.

Tom earned a BBA degree in Accounting from The University of Texas at Austin in 1976.

Tom and I reconnected in 2017 from an introduction provided by Robert Ciemniak of Real Estate Foresight.  Century Bridge was about to embark on a major capital raising roadshow and they hired Liz and me to coach them.  At the first session, Tom and I look at each other: ‘We’ve met before.’ Unfortunately, we couldn’t remember exactly when or where – and, it had been some years back.  Tom was on the very early side of folks in our industry who saw opportunity in China.  Not only did he see it, he moved there. If that doesn’t show commitment to his investors I don’t know what does.  As we spent more time together I got to know Tom as not only a deep thinker but also someone who is a genuinely friendly and caring person.  In reconnecting with Tom it reinforced, once again, how small this wonderful world of commercial real estate is.

Q.  How did you get your start in commercial real estate?

A.   I started my career in public accounting with Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. (now KPMG). The first client I ever went to perform an audit on was a real estate company, which was a Trammell Crow Company entity. When people ask me, “Did you choose real estate?” I tell them, “No, real estate chose me!” A few years later I got a call from Bill Duval, who wanted me to come interview at Lincoln Properties Company.  I joined Lincoln in 1981.  So while I can’t say that I intentionally chose real estate – real estate just chose me.

Q.  What advice would you give to someone who has been in the industry for a short time, or a student looking to get his or her start?

A.  I would tell them that knowledge has tremendous power.  If you’re already in the industry the most important thing you can do is to know every little detail, about whatever you’re working on.  That way the more senior people come to rely on you because they know you have the knowledge.  You know the old expression, “The devil is in the details’ but with the knowledge and understanding you can literally become indispensible.  The other thing I would say is ‘think like an owner.’ If you think like an owner you’re going to be more valuable to the leadership. One more thing: Perseverance is very, very important.  

Q.  As you look back on your career is there anything you wished you had done differently? If so, what?

A.  Any of us who have been in his business for around 40 years like me have all made mistakes at different times and we learn from them.  In that sense I have accepted the fact that you make mistakes and the best think we can do is – and then not make the same mistake twice.  Anytime you make a mistake you wish you could do it over but that’s not realistic. I feel fortunate that I haven’t made the same mistake twice. There are always cycles, we all wish we understood the cycles better but a few times I’ve been fortunate in that regard.  I don’t think I’d make any major changes from what I’ve done.

Q. Who have been major influences on your career?  How?

A.  I learned a tremendous amount from Bill Duvall at Lincoln Property Company.  I was with him for 7 years and had a great appreciation of him.  Also, when I joined the Bass Organization I had the privilege of working for David Bonderman for 4 years.  That was probably the steepest learning curve I’ve ever had being around him.  He’s a brilliant mind and being able to work with him and observe him was a great experience. 

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