The law firm Allen Matkins is synonymous with real estate on the West Coast, and among its many marquee lawyers, one is currently the most active and best known.
It’s apt Tony Natsis looked like a magician last week over lunch at BJ’s next to his Century City office. How does a guy go from a second-generation Greek household in Detroit to the upper reaches of California business? He started out as a regular kid, memorizing the baseball encyclopedia; worshiping the Tigers, Red Wings, Gordie Howe, and Al Kaline; playing baseball (first base and catcher), basketball, and tennis; and as an 8-year-old, using a slide rule to update batting averages and ERAs by hand in the morning paper to reflect late games the night before. And building his collection of 30,000 baseball cards with such gusto that some parents forbade their kids to trade with him, even though they were older.
Here’s the six name partners, with Tony added in 2006. Tony’s mom was “hell bent” on education and by ninth grade convinced him that colleges might also look at grades. Good at math, Tony buckled down, and in the next grading period went from mediocre to seven As and one B, causing his mom to call the school and report a mistaken report card. After his father won a little rabbit-eared TV in a contest and offered it to whichever of his kids got the best grades, it went into Tony’s room—and never came out.
Here is Tony’s filing system—he’s got 300 boxes (70 of which sit in his office), each representing a deal. His dad had an education plan as well. A Korean War vet and insurance salesman, he revered the University of Michigan. So Tony was born, he says, with “a giant M on my head” and loyally went there as an undergrad (’80). But getting into law school was harder. His dad called his relatives into action: They owned Greek restaurants in the area and launched a campaign to get “nephew Tony” in, nudging every patron who had a connection to law school. One Saturday, the law school dean of admissions called Tony with good news and a request: “You can send your deposit now, but please tell all your relatives we’ve let you in.”
Tony with championship basketball trophies from the recreational league teams he coached for his children. His brother paved the way to LA by taking a job at Security Pacific, and Tony came out in ’83. He lived in Burbank, went to work at Sheppard Mullin, and imagined he would be a corporate or bankruptcy lawyer. But they told him they needed a body for real estate. He dutifully jumped in, but quickly came to “like the idea you close deals, smoke cigars, and there’s not a lot of law involved.” After several years, he wanted to be more entrepreneurial and went to Troy & Gould, a boutique with three partners where he would be the most senior associate (out of two); and since it was at 1801 Century Park East, he found he had suddenly become a glamorous “Westside lawyer.”
He worked on Fox Plaza for a JV of Marvin Davis and 20th Century Fox with Henry Casden as a mentor and another lawyer, Dick Ziman, formerly of Loeb & Loeb, teaching him about leasing forms. Eventually, he wanted a bigger real estate pond, and Allen Matkins seemed the obvious place. When he arrived in 1991, most of the name partners were in their 40s. By the 2000s, he was operating at the top with revered legal eagles like Rick Mallory, Allen Matkins’ big landlord rep, and DLA’s Mike Meyer, a tenant guru. They invited him into their market-dominated club, intrigued by his youth and energy. Today he focuses on leasing, purchases, and sales of buildings and portfolios and development law (but not land use). His clients are a Who’s Who of owners, like Kilroy, Boston Properties, Hudson Pacific, Beacon Capital, JP Morgan, and EOP. And he’s spread his wings beyond LA to San Diego, S.F., and Seattle.
Like any Greek, Tony says, he’s close to his family: wife Demetra (center—in case you think she's a daughter), and kids George, Marialexa, and Niko. Indeed, he’s traded in his slide rule and obsession over batting averages for obsession over his daughter’s elite volleyball travel team (going with her to frequent tournaments around the country and preparing to turn her over to play at Amherst College when she arrives there in the fall). He also works out with a trainer every other day, but in a closet somewhere still has his baseball card collection.