NEW GVA CHIEF IS MORE ACCOUNTANT THAN BROKER
John Hutcheson admits he's an accountant, but tells us he's an "MBA accountant not a CPA accountant," by which we think he means he's not a bean counter but more of a manager. The newly appointed CEO of GVA Advantis is also quick to point out that while he did not come up on the brokerage side, he did some brokerage and lease negotiations in Norfolk years ago while working for a small development company.
We reached John in Atlanta yesterday when we heard that the popular Petch Gibbons was stepping down GVA chief. Although GVA has suffered some high profile defections in the last year, and been the subject of speculation about excessive leverage in its 2005 management-led buyout, Hutcheson cites three counterpoints: that 47 of the 51 employees who bought Advantis from St. Joe back then are still with the company; that its first year as a private firm (Sept '05 – August '06) was its best in five years; and that its revenue was 35% above budget in the first four months of fiscal '07.
Hutcheson, 47, has visited Washington three or four times a year as COO recently, but will now be coming monthly. He grew up in Hampton and Newport News, was CFO of commercial real estate services firm Goodman Segar in Norfolk when St. Joe bought it in 1998, and moved to Atlanta as CFO of Advantis. It existed under than name—"Advantis, a St. Joe's company"—until a possible buyer appeared and employees decided they'd rather buy it themselves. They added "GVA" to the name to reflect the international network of which it's long been a part.
We also reached Petch yesterday, who told us he wants to spend less time traveling and more time with his family. At age 53, he's a late-blooming father, with a three year old daughter and a baby due in April, yet has been averaging two to three days a week travelling the last six years. He told us he also wants to "roll up my sleeves again" as a broker, something he points out other managers have done such as Brian McVay at Cushman and Steve Goldstein atStudley. Petch believes strongly in the future of Washington and won't be indifferent: he remains the largest single stakeholder in the company.
John says Petch let the 7-member board know of his decision before the holidays so they have been planning the succession for a month. John's goal: Double the number of agents, currently at 140, within five years while pushing into new markets. Current geographies include DC, Northern Virginia, Richmond, Newport, Norfolk, Raleigh- Durham, Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Talahassee, and Panama City. New markets John has his eye on include South Florida—especially Miami, Boca, and Ft. Lauderdale—and also Charlotte, Birmingham, Memphis and other major southern cities.
DC currently has 35 employees in two offices compared to 60 in Atlanta, although the biggest office is Norfolk, and the company total is 500. John plans to harp on growth and make sure it is reported on frequently. He thinks the current strongest practice is tenant rep and corporate services in the major markets, and agency leasing and property management in secondary markets. In the South, GVA also has a strong construction company that does tenant improvement and small retail such as restaurants and strip shopping centers.
"We'd consider construction in Washington, too, if we found the right person to lead it." He says the company has done interior work in the South at Office Depot, Chipotle, Cracker Barrel, Walgreens, and other retailers.
Maybe that reflects his own bias. John in his spare time is a master woodworker, as were his father and grandfather, and this year made cutting boards for Christmas presents. But covering his bases, he also took his wife to Paris.