Former Thor Execs Launch New Retail Advisory Group
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Thor Equities has been a household name in New York City commercial real estate for years, largely because of its founder, Joseph Sitt, and its proclivity for high-profile retail deals. Now, two executives who spent years under Sitt at Thor are launching a retail advisory group in Manhattan to try to capitalize on the tectonic shifts happening in retail.
Jason Richter founded Capricorn Asset Management a few years ago, but the company fully launched last month, he told Bisnow, when he brought on Andrew Schulman, who spent 10 years at Thor before stints at Westfield and British outlet shopping center owner McArthurGlen Group.
The pair, along with an in-house marketing staffer and office administrator, has secured assignments with Empire Outlets in Staten Island and a ground-up retail development in Brooklyn. Richter, who led real estate operations for Perfumania after he left Thor, said companies need nimble retail advisors more than ever.
"There’s a changing tide and evolution out there," Richter said. "When the environment is changing, people definitely need and look to experts."
For Goldman Sachs and its $500M investment in Empire Outlets, a 350K SF retail property on Staten Island's north shore, next to the beleaguered New York Wheel, Capricorn is handling just the leasing. The firm is not a brokerage, but is intended to be a full-scale manager of retail assets for institutional-level clients
"We’re looking at being an outsourced retail department, that feels like day-to-day, hand-to-hand combat," Richter said. "We will be hired as a landlord’s real estate department, whether it’s development, redevelopment, sitting on extensive construction and legal calls and coordination calls and aiding in the design and build of those assets and helping set the pro forma and the underwriting. It’s a lot more than just a landlord rep."
In Richter and Schulman's combined decades in retail, they have worked for institutions, a full-scale retail real estate owner in Thor, REITs, retailers and mall and shopping center owners. Even though Capricorn is based in New York, Richter said it will function as a national retail firm.
Richter said their experience gives them international reach. The pair said they will look to partner with the best retail brokers in each market to ensure their two-person firm feels like a large operation.
"Just because you go with a global powerhouse doesn’t mean you’re getting the best of the best out of that," Richter said. "Each broker stands on his own, and the best thing about being boutique, for us, is we’re very much agnostic in terms of brands. Let’s say you want to enter LA or San Francisco or Portland. CBRE or Cushman or JLL aren’t necessarily the best brokers in those markets, but we team up with whoever is."
Capricorn's new office is at the corner of Madison Avenue and 48th Street in Midtown Manhattan, and the company has room to grow.
Richter acknowledges retail is at a critical point in its history, which comes with anxiety and uncertainty. In New York, he said prices in Williamsburg north of $300 or $400 per SF need to come down, but he said Fifth Avenue is not in as much trouble as it seems; it still boasts some of the best foot traffic and sales volumes in the world, always the most important metrics for a retailer.
But beyond that, the U.S. has a big correction to make in retail, and Richter wants Capricorn to help guide clients through that.
"Figuring out what to do with a lot of this retail that is either now kind of defunct, or antiquated, or is somewhat functionally obsolete," he said. "What will happen to the rest of the retail as it continues to experience that, that’s a big question mark."
CORRECTION, DEC. 19, 8:45 P.M. EST: Capricorn is handling the retail leasing for Empire Outlets. A previous version of this story misstated the firm's role with the project. This story has been updated.