Sobrato’s head of real estate to depart

Rob Hollister has led seminal Silicon Valley developer for nine years

The Sobrato Organization's Rob Hollister and the Sobrato-built Apple campus at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino (Getty, Linkedin)
The Sobrato Organization's Rob Hollister and the Sobrato-built Apple campus at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino (Getty, Linkedin)

The head of The Sobrato Organization’s real estate and development group, which oversees 15 million square feet of rentable space and a $1 billion development pipeline, is departing after nine years at the helm.

Rob Hollister, who came to the storied Silicon Valley development firm as president of real estate in July 2013, will vacate the position on Sept. 2, the organization said in a news release. While the release is dated July 18, the news of Hollister’s departure hasn’t been previously reported.

“I leave knowing that the Real Estate Group is well positioned for enduring success,” Hollister said in a statement. He plans to take some time to consider his next move, Sobrato’s spokesperson wrote in an email.

Sobrato CEO Matthew Sonsini will lead its real estate group until the organization chooses Hollister’s successor, said the release. Sonsini and his colleagues will spend the next few months “defining what leadership should look like moving forward” for the group, the spokesperson said. Once that’s done, its search for a successor will begin internally and expand to include external candidates if necessary, the spokesperson said.

“Although Rob is moving on to pursue a new path, his legacy at TSO will continue,” Chairman John Michael Sobrato said in a statement. “Over the last nine years, he has impacted TSO, the Real Estate Division and the many people he has supported and served along the way.”

Whoever Sobrato hires as Hollister’s successor will take over the day-to-day operations of Silicon Valley’s third-largest commercial landlord, the latest Silicon Valley Business Journal data show. Sobrato is seen as a bellwether in the region’s commercial real estate industry; when it makes a move, others tend to follow.

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Sobrato’s assets include more than 7.5 million square feet of offices in Northern California leased to the likes of Airbnb, Amazon and Netflix, and about 6,700 apartments, according to a March Inside Philanthropy report.

When Hollister arrived at Sobrato with the newly created title of president of real estate in 2013, it marked the first time a non-family member would run the organization’s daily operations. Father-son duo John Albert and John Michael Sobrato previously helmed those duties before vacating them to focus on the family’s philanthropic efforts, Bloomberg reported at the time.

Hollister came to Sobrato after spending almost 17 years at Hines, eight of those in China, according to a 2014 Business Journal report. John Albert Sobrato told the publication that hiring him was “a bit of a reach” because he didn’t have much local name recognition, but that “you’d think someone who did business in Shanghai would be able to figure out Silicon Valley, and he has. He’s a very quick study.”

During Hollister’s tenure at Sobrato, its real estate group has built or entitled multiple large projects in Silicon Valley and the Peninsula, such as a 214,000-square-foot office building in East Palo Alto that Amazon fully leased in 2017. Other notable projects include the redevelopment of a strip mall and office building in Redwood City into 520 apartments and 420,000 square feet of new offices, which is in the works, and an 18-story office in downtown San Jose that probably won’t break ground until it’s partially or fully leased.

UPDATED, July 28, 9:35 p.m. PT: This story has been updated to include more information on Sobrato’s plan for finding Hollister’s successor, courtesy of the organization’s spokesperson. 

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