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The New Closers: Why Tony Anderson Is One To Watch

James Capital Advisors Vice President Tony Anderson, who had no inkling in his youth that he would pursue a career in commercial real estate, is now a rising star in the net lease space.  

"It just never would have occurred to me," Anderson said. "I didn't know anyone in that business growing up in LA, and I don't think I knew anyone who knew anyone in the business."

Once he got into it, however, he was off to a running start.

Tony Anderson is also a helicopter pilot.

During the last five years, Anderson has facilitated more than 150 net lease deals, many of them portfolio sales for the largest retail and medical property owners and developers in the South, including American Realty Capital, Vereit, Peco NNN, JJK Partners, RKM Development and the Inland Group of Cos.

All together, Anderson's deal volume has totaled more than $500M in four full years, a solid start to a net lease career.

"I've both bought from Tony and sold assets through him, and on both ends of the transaction, he understands the nuances of the market and of his client's needs," PREP Vice President of Investments, Net Lease Chris Phillips said. "Anything he works on, he digs in and understands how the underlying businesses run, so he can advise accordingly."

Anderson said that for him, getting deals closed means focusing his attention on solving complex problems, persistence in working toward a clearly defined goal and access to an ever-expanding network of contacts within the industry.

He has a growing expertise in complex deals.

A deal he completed in February, for instance, was more than just complex, it was important to the well-being of the client. Anderson said the impact of failing to get the deal done would have been grim for the elderly man, who needed income from the asset sale to pay his bills.

"I believe the stress might have killed him if we hadn't been able to do the deal," Anderson said.

Anderson and his sister in Greece

It began when Anderson took an 82-year-old San Franciscan as a client. He had no family and owned a less-than-stellar commercial property in Greenville, Kentucky. Debt was coming due on the property in three months, and refinancing wasn't an option.

The deal had particular urgency: Not only was the owner about to lose the property to the lender, it was his only income-producing asset at a time in his life when his health was declining and he badly needed the income.

But serving that particular client was more than just about finding a buyer. If he found a buyer, Anderson was also tasked to do a 1031 exchange that would avoid a crippling tax bill and provide his client with the income he needed to live: $9,100/month.

"The numbers were daunting," Anderson said. "Every part of the deal was a tough nut to crack."

About a week before the lender planned to foreclose, Anderson found a local buyer who saw value in the original property because it fit into his larger plans in the area. But what about the 1031 exchange?

"That was where having a lot of contacts comes in handy," Anderson said. "We reached out to everyone in hopes of finding the right property — and before the deadline, we did."

The object of the 1031 was a piece of semi-rural forested land with recreational cabins. Through a complex structure, Anderson's client bought the land and the cabins separately, and then leased the cabins back to the seller, who wanted to operate and grow the business as a resort. 

"Everyone participating in the deal went over it with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that it not only qualified as a 1031, but that it would generate the income my client needed," Anderson said. "No one had seen anything quite like it."

As the resort grows, so will the return for Anderson's client. Enough, very likely, to support him for the rest of his years.

A Christmastime shot of Tony Anderson with his brother and sister

Anderson said his dogged attention to detail goes way back, long before he got into commercial real estate. His family stressed the value of education when he was growing up in Los Angeles with his mother, who ran a cleaning business, and a brother and sister.

Anderson's hard work in school paid off in the form of winning a Bill and Melinda Gates Scholarship, a highly selective scholarship for minority students. He attended the University of Michigan on that scholarship for his undergraduate degree, and won another scholarship at Concordia University for a master's. 

"I studied applied statistics, since I thought I'd have a career in  finance," Anderson said. "I was a good athlete, a walk-on for the Wolverines [football team], which I believe would have helped me in any career. I also helped found a new chapter of the Iota Phi Theta fraternity at Michigan."

He began college with no notion of pursuing commercial real estate, but fate took a hand. A college friend of his introduced him to a friend working for Marcus & Millichap in South Florida.

"After 20 minutes talking to me, he said I'd be a good fit in commercial real estate," Anderson said. "That was a surprise at first, but the more I looked into it, the more I agreed with him."

That introduction ultimately led to Marcus & Millichap hiring Anderson in its Encino, California, office, where he joined the net lease team under Mike James in 2014.

"Mike is very motivated," Anderson said. "Mike said to me, 'This is what we're going to build, and I want you to be a part of that.'"

James Capital Advisors Vice President, Net Lease Tony Anderson

Anderson said his earliest days in CRE were like being back in school.

"I was learning the business as fast as I could — learning about why real estate is a good investment, how investments are put together, and how they're financed," he said.

"Because it was a busy office, I saw transactions as they happened, done by top people in the net lease field, and I worked 15 to 16 hours a day, and sometimes on the weekends. That's what you have to do to succeed in this business. You can learn a lot from other people, as I did from Mike and all the other top-performers in the office, but ultimately your success is all on you." 

Two months in the business, Anderson was able to get his first listings, and his career in net lease has grown from there to its current high pitch. Last year, when James founded James Capital Advisors, Anderson joined. He is always looking forward to the next year rather than back at what he has accomplished.

"Like in sports, it's about what you're doing this year that matters," Anderson said.

Beyond putting together net lease transactions, his ambition now is to build relationships with institutions and clients, especially in mergers and acquisitions.

"We have a good blueprint of how to succeed in that space," he said.

Anderson said that he believes being African-American in the commercial real estate business gives him added self-awareness.

"That has helped develop my emotional intelligence — which is a very important part of succeeding in the business," Anderson said. "It has an impact on how you see things and do things, but you have to make sure it's a positive thing."

He said he also feels very strongly about teaching the rising generation of African-Americans about the possibilities of CRE careers.

"I want to show them what's out there," Anderson said. "That's an experience I didn't have growing up."

In his free time, Anderson is an enthusiastic recreational helicopter pilot, and he wants to pass that enthusiasm along as well.

"I'm taking it to the next level, getting a grant from the city to teach kids how to fly. That's my next project in giving back to the community."