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Q&A With Scott Chandler: Cushman’s Loss Is Colliers’ Gain

Ex-Cushman & Wakefield Canada CEO Scott Chandler has joined Colliers International as SVP leading its advisory and investment sales team. We spoke with him about the new gig, his 2016 outlook, and what he’s reading.


Bisnow: How did all of this play out?

Scott Chandler: I was president and CEO of Cushman & Wakefield Canada for two years. We were progressing, and in the sale process were taken over by DTZ, headed by a private equity firm. And the decision was made to go in a different direction in terms of CEO, and the role Canada plays within the global company, as well. I don’t think it’s more complicated than that.

Bisnow: When did Colliers enter the picture? Who approached who? 

Scott Chandler: I can’t say. But it’s a small industry, everyone knows everyone, and we’ve always been friendly competitors. It'd been announced I would not be CEO at Cushman, and I’ve always gotten along well with the senior management at Colliers, and so I found it to be a really good fit, especially with the company being led by (Colliers International Canada brokerage service president) Scott Addison and (CEO) Dave Bowden.

What I like about Colliers is that they’re a Canadian-led global company. That’s very appealing to me. And the breadth and depth of their services: in addition to the brokerage office, there’s also property management, development services, and there’s a strong valuation group. So for the type of work I do, to be able to tie into all that is a tremendous advantage.


Pictured: Scotia Plaza. Scott was part of the team that sold the iconic bank tower in 2012 (more below).

Bisnow: What is your mission at Colliers?

Scott: What I’m trying to do is grow the advisory and investment sales business, and that entails anything to do with investment. On the buy side, for clients, we can give hard-to-do financial due diligence, portfolio strategy, even help lead valuation, whether it’s by the appraisal group or a broker opinion of value. 

On the sell side, I’m a licensed broker, so I can work with the brokerage team to do some of the same things: advise vendor clients, as well as assist with the underwriting for investment properties for sale. That’s what I’ve always done—been an adviser who works on brokerage.

Bisnow: What are you watching for in commercial real estate this year?

Scott: Investment markets have been focused on yield and preservation of capital. So core assets, core geographies, well-leased, newer, functional buildings—we’re seeing tremendous appetite for those, and with record-low cap rates and record-high pricing. On the flip side, given the Canadian dollar and what oil and gas are doing right now, the appetite for risk may not be as strong as many vendors would like.

There’s stronger emphasis in the office market on functional space. We’re seeing newer office buildings in Toronto and other markets leasing up well, and they’re able to make the business case for tenants that employee attraction and retention and increased productivity can more than justify the real estate costs; that it’s not just about price per square foot, because these towers are expensive to move into.


Pictured: First Canadian Place. Another bank tower whose sale—from now-defunct O&Y REIT to Brookfield Properties, CPP and AIMCo—Scott worked on.

Bisnow: How did you get involved in real estate?

Scott: After graduating (from Wilfrid Laurier University with a BA in economics) in 1987 I was hired by Clayton Research (now Altus Clayton), an economic consulting firm that specializes in real estate. Frank Clayton was my mentor. After that I joined Royal LePage (later Cushman & Wakefield) and worked closely with brokers on the transaction side. That period (2002-2007) was very frothy, and I got involved in due diligence on the buy or sell side of every major asset or portfolio sale, including when GE bought the Dundee portfolio, and when O&Y REIT was sold. 

In 2008 I joined Scotia Capital, where I got a good understanding of capital markets and was involved with a number of big transactions, including Scotia Plaza’s sale to Dundee (now Dream) and H&R REIT (for $1.3B, the largest single asset sale in Canadian CRE history). After that I came back to Royal LePage (now C&W) to run the valuation and advisory group. When the CEO left in 2013, I was asked to become CEO.


Pictured: Scott with his wife and three kids on vacation in Cologne, Germany, last summer.

What you should know about Scott Chandler

Avid traveler: I married well—my wife has family in Hawaii and Germany, so we go there a lot. And every other year we do a family trip: did Italy a few years ago, and before that we went to the South of France. And I want to go to Spain—never been.

Bookworm: I read every night, it’s how I fall asleep. Recently read Conrad Black’s history of Canada—it’s actually really good. Fascinating read; very long, but good. I'm a fan of Ian Rankin, especially the Inspector Rebus series. I also enjoy historical fiction, like James Clavell. I re-read Shogun over the holidays.

Hockey dad: I love hockey and still love to play. I also coach two hockey teams—house league and select, for my two sons, who are 17 and 13. My 15-year-old daughter plays soccer. All of them are in high school next year. We have a pretty busy lifestyle.