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Bob Mathews Steps Back As Leader Of Colliers Atlanta

After 18 years leading Colliers Atlanta, Bob Mathews is stepping aside.

Bob Mathews, the former Colliers Atlanta president, is moving on.

Mathews is ceding the day-to-day operations of Colliers' local office in an industry that has greatly changed since he first started in the business in 1984, when he was hired by current Lee & Associates Chairman Richard Bryant as a broker at Portman Barry Investments.

“In those days, it was mostly brokers [who] were effectively silos, lone rangers,” Mathews told Bisnow in an interview Tuesday. "Today, this business is really a team sport.”

Mathews has been Colliers Atlanta CEO since 2004 and with the company since 1991, and will now serve as executive chairman. Colliers named Nathan Knowles as executive managing director and its new market leader in Atlanta June 2 after a national search.

Knowles is a former senior vice president at JLL who joined Colliers Atlanta in 2020 as senior vice president in the firm's site selection division prior to his promotion.

How brokerage firms operate in 2022 stands in stark contrast to how firms operated 30 years ago, Mathews said. Tenants expect brokers today to have more than just a tacit understanding of their business, and those same companies are demanding a variety of services — leasing, financing, mortgage origination, property management and other services — across their portfolio from just one or two firms.

“I think that's absolutely essential to compete for the multi-market business," Mathews said. 

That’s why he made it his goal to expand the firm’s services, he said. He led Colliers Atlanta’s purchase of Spectrum Realty Advisors, the mobile maintenance division of Spectrum Maintenance Services and Atlanta site-selection services firm The Walker Cos., as well as Colliers International’s majority interest purchase of the Atlanta affiliate in 2015.

"Many companies like to buy the service from the same provider," Mathews said. “They like to have one neck to choke."

As he steps aside from his daily duties, Mathews said his primary concerns are the headwinds that could push the U.S. into a recession.

'If you look at the inflation rate, interest rates and oil prices, those will be the things, I think frankly, that will define the next five years,” he said. "And if those things aren't solved, we're going to have plenty of challenges."

However, Mathews said he sees Metro Atlanta as more insulated from an economic downturn this time around than in past cycles, in large part due to the region's population growth and its diverse workforce coming out of the city's Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the talent coming out of Georgia Tech, Emory and other higher educational institutions.

When Mathews began his commercial real estate career in 1984, Metro Atlanta was home to 1.8 million residents. Today, its population has surpassed 6 million.

“We should do far better than other parts of the country because we have a net in-migration,” he said. “While we may be impacted, the impacts will not be felt quite as bad here. At least we hope.”

Atlanta's growth and its economic development wins in recent years also have caught the attention of commercial real estate investors, which is altering their attitudes toward Metro Atlanta real estate, Mathews said.

“Atlanta is certainly no secret any longer. If you look at the price points for trades in commercial real estate, Atlanta is no longer the odds-on cheapest alternative. Success brings a lot of things, including increased expectation and costs,” he said. “Atlanta is going to be one of the markets [where] institutions will absolutely want exposure in.”