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Helping brokerage make its mark.

Back in 1989, CB Commercial Real Estate Group, Inc., formerly Coldwell Banker, had been in the Big Apple for the past 10 years, but it had not succeeded in taking a substantial bite out of the New York market and was still thought by many to be an out-of-town firm.

Enter a new year and a new managing director -- Steven A. Swerdlow, formerly responsible for the leasing of all Gerald Hines Properties in the New York metro area. Since January 1990, Swerdlow has been working quite successfully to beef up and reshape the Manhattan office of this national company that has 80-plus offices around the country. (The name change from Coldwell Banker to CB Commercial was prompted by the sale and buyout of the commercial group two years ago from Sears. The firm is 45 percent owned by its employess.)

He has recruited experienced New York brokers from some of the city's most successful firms, added a building management component, picked up high-profile owner assignment, including Zeckendorf's Worldwide Plaza, and increased total square footage leased annually.

"We now have the team is place to go after large New York tenant rep deals and the capability to manage and lease major office buildings," Swerdlow said.

In the area of tenant representation, late last year, Swerdlow and CB Commercial broker Howard Appel represented Fairchild Fashion & Design Group in a 145,000-square-foot deal at 7 West 34th Street (former Orbach's site).

CB Commercial, Phil Sprayregan broker, last year represented Dean Witter for a 325,000-square-foot renewal at the World Trade Center. Sprayregan is also representing Dean Witter for a 150,000-square-foot lease in New Jersey. He most recently represented G.X. Clarke, a government bond trading firm, in a move from Manhattan across the River to Exchange Place Centre in Jersey City.

Swerdlow said he has recruited a landlord representation team that shares his philosophy. The team is comprised of Ray Tindel also formerly with Hines, Dan Solomon formerly of Peter R. Friedman, and Michael Gotchman formerly of Rockefeller Center Management. "We have a commonality in our approach to representing landlords and that is we think like owners," Swerdlow said.

CB Commercial has been assigned by Zeckendorf to lease the office and retail space at Worldwide Plaza. And, according to Swerdlow, negotiations for other agencies are pending.

According to Solomon, who began in the business as a broker for Coldwell Banker 10 years ago, the team believes in giving the landlord the same quality and sophisticated representation that the tenant receives today.

Solomon says, "leasing is not just leasing, it's leasing and marketing."

Before joining CB Commercial, Solomon acted as broker for Revlon at 625 Madison and represented Shearson Lehman Hutton at 1 Battery Park Plaza in subleasing 600,000 square feet.

CB Commercial is the agent for 1370 Broadway. They received the assignment in January and leased 50,000 square feet to Rosenthal & Rosenthal. With another, lease out for 30,000 square feet, 850 square feet of the building will remain. Swerdlow said they will rent the remaining space the same way they did the firts -- through hard work.

"Representing space is not brain surgery," Swerdlow said. "It's pricing it right and working hard and staying focused."

While CB Commercial, manages 60 million square feet in the nation and 3 million square feet in the metropolitan area, the Manhattan office was previously not involved in management. With the addition of Tindel, however, the Manhattan office can now offer that service. Tindel is responsible for overseeing CB Commercial's growing property management portfolio in Manhattan, suburban New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. That portfolio at present includes 1.75 million square feet in assignments from IBM in Westchester County and the 335,000 square foot Stamford Towers in Connecticut.

Other recruits are Owen Hane from Cushman & Wakefield, Jeffrey Keiser of Collins & Tuttle, and three brokers from Elowitz & Partners -- Steven Strati, Bill Wolf, and Ken Ruderman.

Swerdlow describes his group of 40 tenant, owner and investment sales brokers, a mix of the Coldwell Banker brokers and the ones he recruited, as young -- the average are is 32 -- cleancut, smart, aggressive and cooperative. The brokers have a weekly meeting where they discuss the market, the business they are going after and they bring in a speaker -- architect, accountant, lawyer, engineer. The emphasis within the firm, Swerdlow said, is on cooperation, and while there are some loosely affiliated teams, there is a sharing of information -- Swerdlow insists on it.

"We're going to get better and stronger by being more cohesive," he said.

National Network

CB Commercial's tenant data bank, run through its mainframe computer in California, tracks hundreds of New York buildings and their tenants and their lease expirations, so the brokers know who to go after and when. This is one of the advantages, he said, of being affiliated with a national firm.

He is also able to receive market information on and serve a client in any city around the nation. When representing space, Swerdlow said, he is able to get the word out to 2,500 brokers.

Being a national firm, Swerdlow said, "accounts business", being able to satisfy the real estate requirements of a large corporation in many different markets, is a priority. The firm is working currrently with Capitol Cities ABC, ITT, Sony and others.

As their clients reach out to other markets, CB Commercial's New York brokers work with local brokers in the new markets while staying involved in the deal. This ensures, Swerdlow said, a consistency in approac and gives the CFO a single point of contact. And the New York broker has already discussed with the facilities manager or CFO what type of business they have, what types of floor plates they require and how they like to make a deal.

"So they're not reinventing the wheel when they go into a different market place."

CB Commercial in New York Helped MicroSoft, based in Bellevue, Washington, lease 30,000 square feet in Worldwide Plaza. The lead for that transaction came out of CB Commercial's office in Bellevue.

Lawyer Turned Broker

Swerdlow arrived to the world of New York real estate from a legal background. After five years at a big downtown law firm, Swerdlow became general counsel to the ad agency Kenyon & Eckhardt. It is there he became heavily involved in real estate helping the firm with a major lease at 805 Third Avenue. The firm never occupied the space, and Swerdlow was involved in subleasing. The firm did move, however, in 1983 to 40 West 23rd Street becoming the first big agency to move to Midtown South. Swerdlow later negotiated the sale of the firm to Lorimar.

Swerdlow's office at CB Commercial bears trophies of his successes with Hines. 450 Lexington Avenue, a 40-story, 900,000-square-footoffice tower, recently topped out in Midtown. The building, a partnership of Sterling Equities, Hines, Prudential, and Shell Pension Fund Foundation, was over 50 percent leased prior to start of construction. Swerdlow negotiated the lease with the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell for more than 480,000 square feet, the largest lease signed in Manhattan in 1989.

Another Hines project 53rd at Third, a 587,000-square-foot project completed in 1987, was over 50 percent leased prior to initial occupancy and 100 percent leased at completion of construction.

Swerdlow said he does not want to grow any larger than they have. At this level, he is able to interact with each broker and deal. The office before had three managers. Steve Anderson was one of them and he is still with the firm as a broker. "You get to a certain size and you need extra layers."

On his move to CB Commercial, Swerdlow beamed: "I had always been a deal this point in my career, I wanted to run something and manage people."
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Steven Swerdlow of CB Commercial
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:company profile
Date:May 22, 1991
Previous Article:Social work: owners, managers wearing new hat.
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