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February 7, 2008


A shoutout to our friends at Arent Fox, a top DC-based law firm expanding rapidly in NYC. Led by Michael Blass, it now has over 70 lawyers at 1675 Broadway, focusing on real estate, construction, health care, corporate, litigation, bankruptcy and financial restructuring, and intellectual property.


David Arena started only 20 months ago as Tri-State president of Grubb & Ellis—700 employees in six offices—but made changes quickly. He replaced half the 150 brokers, brought in some stars he knew when he was running global real estate for Morgan Stanley and strategy for Jones Lang and—presto!—last year increased property management 55%, and leasing transactions 60%.  "Those are our sweet spots," David tells us, and he would know:  He makes surprise inspections of buildings they manage, housing the likes of Sony, Moodys, and IBM. It's in his nature; he swears he even inspects the kitchen of every new restaurant he tries.


How'd he get into real estate?  A 1983 graduate of Fordham originally from Mt. Vernon, NY, his first job was with IBM, and he showed up in a striped shirt; when they told him to change, he hightailed out and started several new businesses including Arena Video Introductions ("a great way to get dates for me and my friends"). He made a lot of money and in his spare time became a volunteer defensive football coach for a Scarsdale high school.  he head coach was CFO of Tishman Speyer, who persuaded him to come try his company out, and next thing he knew he was managing a building at 11 West 42nd.


David, here with assistant Valerie Head, says their recent merger with NNN Realty Advisors will deliver another solid year. NNN is an investment company, with whom Grubb has $6.5 billion under management, broadening its business model. As for leasing, he says NYC's historically low vacancy rates—now at 4.5%—will help the firm thrive during the coming years as tenants are less committed to long-term leases. Most of the firm's transactions involve mid-cap deals of less than 150,000 SF, which is a good place to be, since he says it represents 92% of market activity.


David, here with biz dev queen Lauren Davidson, pushes the envelope to motivate, like bringing on as a project manager a rabbi he met one night on the Metro North train home to Greenwich.  Each Monday morning 100 staff gather for a pep talk and update that the rabbi starts off with a few minutes of philosophy.  While other sponsors at REBNY this year distributed conventional marketing brochures, Grubb & Ellis published the rabbi's insights in book form and gave away complimentary copies.     

Jones Lang LaSalle
Arent Fox
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