"Strong," "agile" and "competitive" are words that can be used to describe not only Westcore Properties, but also the two leaders of the San Diego-based international real estate acquisitions firm.
Founder/Chairman Marc Brutten was world champion in the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation's 2012 seniors competition, and President/CEO Don Ankeny is a former Ironman Triathlon competitor and active long-distance cyclist.
Their strength and determination have propelled Westcore to a leadership position in the commercial real estate field, with more than $3 billion in assets under management, and more than 15.4 million square feet of real estate sales since its founding in 2000. The firm has a staff of 40 in San Diego and 15 at branches in San Francisco, Sacramento, Denver, London and Geneva.
Outpacing their competitors is a theme that pops up frequently when the two real estate executives discuss their industry:
"We are hyper-vigilant and focused on our niche business," said Brutten, who began his career leasing and developing shopping centers in San Diego County in the '80s. "We don't try to do everything. We focus on a highly disciplined, deliberate approach to recognizing underperforming buildings. It is through the analysis of a matrix of factors that our team can underwrite and perform faster than most of our competitors. When you add up those adjectives, they all lead to superior execution."
"Our people are what set us apart from the competition," said Ankeny, an office-leasing veteran who first worked with Brutten in 1994 and came aboard Westcore in 2005. "We try to hire and retain the brightest people in the industry. We strive to be very thoughtful about the business we execute and how we interact with our customers, who are our tenants, along with our capital partners, lenders and investors."
Brutten and Ankeny cite an industrial space as an example of the firm's quick-turnaround capabilities. Westcore bought the vacant, 1.4 million-square-foot Cajon Industrial Park in San Bernardino in 2011. Within nine months, the Westcore team negotiated a long-term lease for the entire space to Hewlett-Packard as a warehouse and distribution center; negotiated an out-of-court agreement with a railroad company that claimed the property was creating storm-water runoff that eroded its trestle; and sold the property at a profit to an institutional investor, under terms allowed by the agreement.
"It was a very exciting transaction and one we're very proud of," Brutten said. "Many of the properties we acquire provide some form of challenge either through lease-up of vacant space, repositioning or remarketing of space that's inefficiently configured, and the challenges of environmental contamination and remediation that are required make properties compliant with governmental regulations.
"Just about everything we buy has a challenge we overcome in order to drive the value. We have a vertically integrated team from construction management to asset management, property management to leasing. They act like sort of a SWAT team to go in and analyze the challenges and come up with a series of solutions so those properties can perform in accordance with the highest standards."
The team also is proud of its most recent acquisition, totaling 12 million square feet of properties in Sacramento and parts of the Midwest, and in Fremont and Union City, California. They describe the acquisition as a very complex transaction completed in less than 90 days.
Having been through their share of real estate cycles, Brutten and Ankeny have some seasoned industry advice that has helped Westcore develop a reputation for institutional capability, performance and execution.
"Spend a lot of time with your prospective bankers and establish relationships with them so you can get the support you need when you find a project to acquire, because the banks and lenders today are very picky about sponsors, unlike the environment in 2006," Brutten said. "So it's incumbent on investors and developers to also spend a lot of time educating lenders as to why they should do business with them.
"Because we're internally capitalized, we're able to get to the finish line with fewer conditions prior to closing than a lot of our competition, who may or may not have strong sponsorship track records, which is very important when it comes time to getting bank financing to the extent it's needed."
And while the team leaders are proud of the work they've performed for their tenants through the years, Ankeny said, "We're most proud of the return we've achieved for our investors over time."
4435 Eastgate Mall, Suite 300 | san Diego, CA 92121 | (858) 625-4100 | www.westcore.net
By Glenn Grant, The Daily Transcript