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CBRE Hires Former Transwestern Exec For Top Americas Position

Mike Watts

CBRE is bringing new leadership to its operations in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. Chicago-based veteran Mike Watts will join CBRE on May 17 as president of Investor Leasing in the Americas and will provide leasing services to the firm’s investor and landlord clients across all property types, but with a focus on the office sector.

Watts is taking the helm at one of the most uncertain times ever for that asset class. The coronavirus pandemic seems to be subsiding in many U.S. markets, but it's still unknown how — or even if — companies will return to their offices, including how many workers will continue using popular work-from-home technologies such as Zoom and what impact that will have on companies' long-term footprints. 

"Nobody knows for certain what will happen over the next six, 12 or 24 months," Watts said.

But unlike the past, when landlords and tenants were frequently at odds over rental rates and other issues, the office sector now has a hidden strength as it confronts the aftermath of Covid, he added. 

"Owners and corporate America are aligned, and their goals are to get people back to the office and get the country functioning again," he said.

More than ever, as tenants start formulating strategies and taking steps to return, they will carefully evaluate what office aesthetics landlords offer, along with new amenities and safety features needed to make employees feel safe, according to Watts. 

"The owners who have a more progressive mindset are going to do very well," he said.

Watts said one of his chief goals over the next several years will be to work with CBRE’s property management, capital markets, project management and valuations leaders, and make sure they combine efforts rather than staying in silos as the office sector puts itself back together.   

"Some of the things that will be important from a leasing standpoint will be in the property management arena," he said. "Leasing and management have probably never been closer than they are now." 

Investment sales also slowed down as Covid took over, and even though Watts said he expects transactions to pick up, it's not going to be the same. Data analytics and market research will assume greater importance post-pandemic as investors seek certainty as they wade back into the market.

"As we figure out what needs to be done to buildings, capital will be under a higher level of scrutiny than it ever has been, so you will want to get it right."  

Watts most recently served Transwestern as president of the Midwest region and oversaw its national agency leasing business development. Before joining Transwestern, he was with J.F. McKinney & Associates, where he led leasing efforts for the former Hyatt Center, a 1.7M SF landmark development at 71 South Wacker Drive in Chicago completed in 2005, as well as repositioned several other Downtown Chicago projects. Before that, he worked for LaSalle Partners as its downtown regional leasing director.