Q & A with member of broker trio who left Cushman to do bigger deals

By Adam Pincus | September 28, 2009 03:57PM

Yoav Oelsner is one of a trio of commercial sales brokers who met at Eastern Consolidated, then moved in 2003 to Cushman & Wakefield and then jumped this month to Grubb & Ellis.

At Cushman, Oelsner, Jon Epstein and Charles Kingsley worked on investment sales of up to $50 million and together closed four transactions this year, with four more properties in contract. Since moving to Grubb & Ellis, a firm with a smaller presence in New York City and about half the size of Cushman worldwide, the three executive vice presidents have started working on three other deals. Oelsner talked with The Real Deal about why the group moved from Cushman and what will be different at Grubb & Ellis.

At Cushman & Wakefield, your deal size was capped at about $50 million. What will be different at Grubb & Ellis?

We can [continue to] concentrate on the middle market [plus] the institutional arena with more expensive properties. Another very important thing here is we can work on debt as well. We were a little constricted at Cushman. It was a field saved for [the financial services division, Cushman & Wakefield] Sonnenblick Goldman.

What sized deals will the team work on now?

If I had to put a value I would say $100 million and below.

Are you concerned about moving from a larger firm to a smaller one?

I don’t see it as small. I think Grubb & Ellis has got a great name and a great reputation throughout the nation. And outside the boundaries of the country. That was very important.

What do you expect for 2010 following the anemic sales market of 2009?

We will see lots of action taking place, loans being sold in foreclosure that are coming to fruition, and people coming to grips that values are no longer those of 2007 and 2006.

How will you find new clients in the more expensive — $50 to $100 million — sales market?

A buyer who buys a $20 million deal many times also buys a $150 million deal or sells a $150 million [property], for that matter. So many of the players that are playing in that market play the entire range of transactions.

Have the deals you closed this year been all cash?

Yes. It is definitely a new phenomenon, but given the market conditions it does not surprise me.

What about the four that are in contract?

It looks like [they will be all cash], but then again they haven’t closed.

Where are the buyers from for the four closed sales and the four in contract?

[They] are all local guys. But we definitely talk on a daily basis with foreigners.

What is a new trend you are seeing in the market?

Developers are looking to structure deals as long-terms leases of land so in essence they don’t need to come up with the cash to purchase the land today but basically pay for it over time.

What is the biggest surprise in the down market?

The amount of transactions. And every deal becomes a very complex deal. Buyers are using the market conditions to their advantage to negotiate.