KBS Regional Presidents Rodney Richerson and Marc DeLuca are a driving force on the KBS leadership team implementing strategic vision for KBS. Join us as we chat about leadership, real estate and exciting new developments in the CRE industry.
Q: What has it been like working for Chuck Schreiber all these years?
A: Rodney Richerson: Chuck has been a great mentor even before I started working for him. I was an analyst at The Koll Company in a cubicle near his office. He was always one of the first people in the office. His business philosophy has been very simple — always do the right thing. When you do the right thing, it ends up helping the investor and our clients, the tenant.
Q: You’ve helped KBS hone in on some interesting non-commodity deals. How do you uncover these gems?
A: Richerson: One of the benefits of working at KBS is the headspace we are provided. We don’t have workloads that create reactionary environments. We travel to the properties often, meet with all kinds of real estate professionals and have a very collaborative work environment that allows us to maximize value across the portfolio. The Salt Lake Hardware Building at first glance seemed like a relic. But today it is a high-demand property for tech and creative tenants who love the unique architecture of the building and open floor plans. We were also able to develop excess land and a parking lot on the site to build Hardware Village, which looks to be the most heavily amenitized apartment project in Salt Lake City, including the coolest rooftop infinity pool with great city views and in the best location available in the city.
Q: Like Rodney, you also have a keen ability to find opportunity in niche markets. How did you do it?
A: Marc DeLuca: Over my 20 years of institutional experience, I look at various drivers in a market to see what the long-term growth prospects might look like. After coming to a conclusion on that, it is then important to understand a client’s needs, i.e., cash flow, long-term hold, merchant build, etc., and see if there is a match. Raleigh was a match for two of our clients who had two different investment strategies, which was one key to making it work for us. Another key was a relationship in the marketplace with a developer.
Q: What do you like to do with properties you acquire to make them perform above the levels of a commodity asset?
A: Robertson: We always try to bring something unique to the market. This is just good business because selling or leasing space in a competitive environment, like real estate, has a lot to do with differentiation and being in touch with what your customer values most. KBS is a custom shop. There is no national rule book or set formula for what we bring to market as far as property positioning goes. We aim to approach each project with fresh eyes. We start with great locations and then go from there. Figuring out a property’s unique potential, appeal to the marketplace, and then crafting a plan and story is a big part of the roll-out. At the end of the day, we are in the business of helping our customers’ businesses thrive — so if we can stay focused on this goal, we are heading in the right direction.
Q: KBS recently closed on the largest loan transaction in company history, a $1.1 billion loan collateralizing eight properties in the $3.5 billion KBS REIT III portfolio. The terms of the deal were very attractive. How do great lender relationships help KBS to perform better not only for investors, but also for tenants?
A: Robertson: There is recognition in the industry that KBS builds great internal teams, buys great real estate and that the overall platform provides a lot of institutional support. It’s said that real estate is a people business — which is true. The benefit for our investors is that because of our organizational quality, the best people in the business want to work with KBS. On the lending side, this means that we benefit from the exceptional lenders, loan terms and pricing. On the service side, this means that we have exceptional sales, leasing and management teams in the business supporting our investment activities. The net result is that our properties can perform better for both our tenants and investors.
Q: What is one way KBS has been able to stay fully in the game by providing space that is perfectly suited for employers working in highly competitive sectors and needing to hire the best and brightest talent?
A: Richerson: We have seen many great examples of best-in-class tenant build-outs. On a smaller scale, we always have top-tier, rent-ready suites that are attractive to all tenants today. We don’t believe the creative build-outs are only for tech or creative companies, I prefer to call it “current space.” Every type of tenant is looking for a major refresh — open work spaces, collaborative space, community space — even KBS has a ping pong table. We also like to provide lots of glass and natural lighting and high-end kitchen/dining space. One of the major improvements we try to implement in our buildings are high-end lounges where employees of our tenants can go and get some personal space, have lunch away from the office or just get away with some co-workers and play ping pong, billiards or some other game to get away from the fast lifestyle we all seem to live.
Q: What can tenants expect in a KBS-owned building?
A: Robertson: Where your people come to work each day says a lot to your employees and customers about your company. If you’re in a KBS building, it’s going to be a very positive message you are sending and you will be among many like-minded companies. Are your employees excited about coming to work each day; are they fully engaged? A KBS building provides the tool you need to build the type of company culture your employees are passionate about being a part of. In this way we partner with our tenants to help them drive productivity for their businesses. Also, the peace of mind you get from being with a financially strong landlord with a great track record can’t be understated. A lease is a long-term commitment, often lasting five, ten or more years. You don’t just go into a partnership like that without thinking long-term about reputation of the parties involved. We are a partner our customers can trust — which is a huge factor in picking a KBS building. The fact that we own awesome buildings in fantastic locations helps too.