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Rand Griffin
Goodbyes are never easy: COPT CEO Rand Griffin is stepping down after leading one of the country?s top office REITs for 18 years. We caught up with him about building a successful business, the future, and where the best vacation spots are (he's earned one).Bisnow: COPT has been among America?s most successfu l public real estate companies under your leadership. Will there be any change in strategic direction upon your departure?Rand: I don't anticipate that. For one, I?ll still be serving on the firm's board. And our strategy in today's market, pursuing build-to-suits in targeted markets while remaining open to spec if fundamentals make sense, was crafted in part by my successor, [current COO] Roger Waesche.
Roger Waesche in Baltimore, May 2011
We snapped soon-to-be CEO Rogerat our Baltimore State of the Market event in May.
Bisnow: Do you have a formula for successful spec?Rand: We've started nine office parks over the past few years, and you need to go spec if you want to become real in a market. We typically build one building spec at first. If leasing picks up momentum, we'll evaluate building a second. If not, we've structured the deal so we can wait for fundamentals to improve.Bisnow: Does COPT have plans to expand?

Rand: We're always looking to enter new markets, although we're not specifically targeting any right now. We've found that developing relationships with specific tenants can help you get into a market on a build-to-suit basis. We did that recently with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Springfield, [Virginia].

National Business Park, Annapolis Junction
COPT's National Business Park in Annapolis Junction.Bisnow: How did you get your start in real estate?Rand: I'm originally from Canada, and I became an American citizen before joining the special forces in Vietnam. After the war, I worked with AT&T in Denver for several years and decided to go to grad school. I got my MBA from Harvard Business School, but I wasn't interested in investment banking. Real estate was the other hot business, and after graduating, I ran Disney?s non-theme park European real estate portfolio for a while. I came to Baltimore in 1993 to run Constellation?s real estate group, which eventually merged with COPT.Bisnow: Any vacation plans?

Rand: I?ve been all over the world, but I?d like to see Alaska and Antarctica. [Ed. note: so much for beaches and sunshine.] I?d also love to go back to New Zealand and Australia.