My Story: Michael Klein
In the past month, GlenStar Properties principal Michael Klein, the Indiana Jones of commercial real estate, has stood atop the tallest building in the world (Burj Khalifa in Dubai, below) and explored the forgotten vault in the bowels of the Chicago Board of Trade. (Which was scarier?)
A Wichita, Kan. native and recovering attorney, Michael was first exposed to real estate transactions and underwriting as in-house counsel with Principal Financial Group in Des Moines. From there he migrated to Westchester County, NY, helping an in-law manage his development company during the early '90s market turmoil. Fast forward three years—Insignia/ESG buys Michael's boutique brokerage firm, then he makes the big move to Chicago in the cold January of 1999 to head up Insignia's Midwest operations. (We remember that year fondly, because we were holed up in a bunker waiting for Y2K.) After a few years building up the platform and then being bought by CBRE, Michael decided he still had the development bug.
Then, the fated call. Now partner Rand Diamond invited Michael to join him (Larry Debb came on later), focusing on larger office acquisitions and development. And it was the perfect fit. Rand and Larry had a track record in Chicago, and Michael had institutional capital relationships. Becoming GlenStar in '04, they quickly picked up 350k SF 263 Shuman Blvd in Naperville (with Prudential Real Estate Investors), redeveloping, snagging the lease for Office Max's global HQ, and selling in 20 months. A makeover of the 50-story tower at 55 E Monroe (above, with Walton Street Capital) followed in '06, with GlenStar making the top 10 floors condos (tough ask during the downturn, but patience has paid dividends and only one unit is left to sell).
GlenStar also picked up President's Plaza at O'Hare and a 40-acre site at Willow and I-294 in Glenview (currently home to Astellas' HQ, the site will also include an LA Fitness and a 90k SF Mariano's). Last year GlenStar bought the monumental Chicago Board of Trade Building with USAA Real Estate Co, and the companies are currently spending $30M modernizing and reintroducing it to the public (even the Ocean's 11 team couldn't penetrate this vault, above). It's a tech mecca, Michael says, with more power and fiber providers than any building in Chicago and redundant cooling. He's also a big believer in the 'burbs—this year the company, along with Walton Street Capital, added 900k SF Continental Towers in Rolling Meadows and 200k SF 2400 Cabot Dr in Lisle.
Michael loves Chicago's collegial real estate community, and his mentors include Insignia Chicago brokers who taught him the local market and industry vet Marshall Bennett. Looking five years ahead, he predicts GlenStar will remain opportunistic with their portfolio (currently 4.5M SF), with an eye on other Midwest markets. Outside of the office, Michael is a P90X devotee. He picked it up about a year ago with his oldest son, a freshman in college, and says it was a great bonding experience (family snapped last year at Cubs fantasy camp). Michael's also just back from a JUF trip to the Middle East, where he lunched in the mall with an indoor ski slope in Dubai.