Friday, February 16, 2018

A friend who has made a difference in the commercial real estate industry: Mary Beth Shanahan McCormick (aka MB)

Mary Beth Shanahan McCormick is Executive Director of the Center for Real Estate at Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University.  She is also a Senior Lecturer in the Finance Department.  The Center is focused on becoming a leading provider of transformative lifelong educational experiences to an active community of real estate students and professionals.

Mary Beth was responsible for directing the real estate investments for Ohio Public Employees Retirement System for many years.  She has served as a Director for multiple public and private REITs and as Senior Advisor for Almanac Realty Partners. She has held a number of leadership positions for a variety of national and regional real estate associations, including Chair of the Pension Real Estate Association (PREA). Mary Beth is a member of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), the National Association of Corporate Directors, and PREA.  Mary Beth Bachelor’s degree and an MBA from The Ohio State University.

Mary Beth (MB) and had met casually at some PREA conferences.  We then got a few opportunities to chat in more depth (of course, in those days, MB worked for a large pension fund and when she was at PREA, everyone wanted a few minutes of her time).  We learned that we both have sons that are musicians and gradually started to get to know each other.  The most poignant thing I remember is that when MB was the chair of PREA, she gave a wonderfully moving eulogy of an industry colleague that had passed away.  It was beautiful.

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

A.  By accident, or perhaps it was destiny!  In a roundabout way, I found out about a position at Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS).  Going back in time, when I was in grad school, I worked at the Ohio State University (OSU) placement office.  After that, I worked for another company that was not in real estate. While there I got promoted three times in nine months and I felt this is either really good or really scary!

I called the OSU placement office to post the position I was just promoted out of and was talking with my friend there. She said, “We just got a call from this guy at OPERS and it sounds interesting. You may want to call him”. So, I called Tim Getz. It was a coincidence, although I don’t believe there are coincidences – things happen for a reason. I wasn’t interested in moving because I had just gotten promoted. Remember, this is in the late 80’s. Real estate had only been an investible asset class for the pension fund for a few years. I think the assets under management at the time were, golly, about $200 – 300 million.

I talked to Tim about what he was doing at OPERS and it sounded very interesting. But what really sold me on it was that I’d be working for my grandmother, who was a member of the pension system. I’d also be working for the retirees, widows and orphans of the State of Ohio. I’ve always wanted to have a positive impact on people’s lives and it seemed like this was a really good way to do it.  If I could invest their money well they’d have a more secure retirement.  It seemed like a great way to use all my education and all my background. I also liked the fact that it was basically a start-up, I’d be the third person joining, and I could set up the systems I wanted – everything was still a work in progress.  It was a great opportunity. That’s how I ended up at OPERS in real estate – purely by accident. 

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

A. Here at the Center for Real Estate at Ohio State University, we work with many students who are considering real estate as a career, and I get that question quite often.  I tell them a couple of things:  at the end of the day all we have is our reputation – don’t screw it up now.  Be honest when you deal with people, be upright.  You’re setting the tone now for how people will regard you for your entire career.  Then I tell them that the real estate business, like every other business, is really all about people.  It’s not about the sticks and bricks, it’s about the people who buy and sell buildings, it's about people who lease space and people who they lease space from; it’s all about relationships.

I suggest that they meet as many people in the industry as they can. I also tell them that there’s something in real estate for everybody – I truly believe this. Whatever you love to do, whatever you’re best at, there’s something here in commercial real estate for you to do.  If you’re a quant you can be an analyst for a private equity firm, on Wall Street, or for a pension fund. If you’re more of a people person you can be in business development or be a broker.  If you’re a visionary you can be a developer and can change the way a city looks or work on sustainability and the city of the future. You can help create a better way so that our grandchildren have more efficient buildings and better places to live.   I really think the sky is the limit for anybody in real estate. 

Q.  As you look back on your career is there anything you wish you had done differently and if so, what?

A.  One of my life lessons: I wait too long to make a change.  I tend to give people too many second chances, including myself.  I think I’ve been too slow to do what I know in my heart needs to be done.  If something not’s right, it’s wrong, and time rarely changes that.  I’ve been too slow to change positions, I’ve been too slow to let deals go, or make other changes I know need to happen. I linger in denial too long. 

Q.  Who have been the major influences in your career and how?

A.  I’ve been so fortunate. People have always been incredibly generous with me with their time, their wisdom and their advice. I'm reluctant to start listing names, because I know I can't list everyone, but I'll name a couple of folks. 

I learned a lot from my first Chief Investment Officer, Bob McLaughlin.  I quote him all the time to my students because he saw things in such an interesting way. Bob came up with these great remarks like, “Don’t confuse your bank account with your I.Q.” and “Junk yards make money, museums don't.” I learned a lot from him.  I learned a lot from Tim Getz, who is very good at predicting capital flows and also very creative.  John McGurk showed me that you can be highly ethical and highly successful at the same time.  Jim Curtis of Bristol Group, who studied under Jim Graaskamp and is a genius in his own right, taught me about investment fundamentals and the need to thoroughly understand everything about the market and the property.

When I was at PERS, we’d have discussions: “Do you want a real estate investment manager who can make money or someone you can trust?”  I always said, “I want both.” I needed to make money for the people I represented, and I like to sleep nights.  We were lucky to find managers who were able to do both and knock it out of the park.

Early on I decided to find the smartest people in the room at conferences and sit with them, to learn from them, and I quickly learned that the people who are best at what they do are often the nicest.  This is how I got to know Michael Giliberto and Bernard Winograd, two very smart and kind people. Marjorie Tsang is another great example - she's a great resource and sounding board, very wise.

This is a great question, but I can go on for hours about the wonderful people I've worked with, who've influenced my perspective.  I've been very fortunate.

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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