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Hotel brokerage

‘Every deal is different’ for CBRE’s award-winning Doug Henkel

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Print this page by Elizabeth Cooper
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Doug Henkel, an executive vice president
for CBRE/MidSouth. Photo by Mark Rhodes

From Washington, D.C.’s famous Watergate Hotel to the historic Cavalier property in Virginia Beach,   Douglas Henkel has played major roles in some of the most substantial real estate deals in the hospitality industry, closing more than $1 billion in hotel deals in the past two years alone. 

Not bad for a guy who began selling residential properties 43 years ago because he couldn’t afford graduate school. Today, Henkel, executive vice president with CBRE/MidSouth, leads the company’s hotel brokerage practice out of its Norfolk office, closing deals on hospitality properties throughout the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean.

The top producer for CBRE/Hampton Roads and the firm’s Mid-South region in 2013, he was also recognized in the company’s Colbert Coldwell Circle of the Top 100 performers in North America last year.  “For a Norfolk broker to be in the top 100 CBRE brokers nationally is an incredible accomplishment we all take pride in,” J. Scott Adams, president of CBRE’s Mid-South region, said of the award.

As a principal in CBRE’s Norfolk, Richmond, Charlottesville, Raleigh and Greensboro affiliate offices and a member of the company’s board of directors, Henkel has focused on commercial real estate for more than three decades. At the start of his career, he co-owned Read Commercial Properties with Craig Read from 1979 to 1994. The firm had grown to three locations with more than 100 employees when Henkel and Read sold it to Robinson Sigma Commercial Real Estate Inc. Henkel joined Robinson Sigma and soon found his niche in hotel brokerage. “Whatever needed to be done I worked on,” he says. “Land, broker, investments, sales, leasing.”

It’s not awards or the opportunity to broker major deals that drives Henkel. He simply enjoys his work. “I like doing real estate,” he says. “It’s interesting and allows me to travel and meet a lot of interesting people. Every deal is different, and every property is different.”

A case in point: two huge deals Henkel orchestrated last year. As the exclusive broker for the $35.7 million sale of the 87-year-old Cavalier Hotel, Henkel worked with the city to provide off-site infrastructure support and cash incentives for potential buyers. “The property is very important to Virginia Beach because it’s their northern gateway,” he notes. “The city was very anxious to see that hotel being preserved.”  Henkel believes the buyer, Cavalier Associates LLC, led by Virginia Beach developer Bruce Thompson, can successfully revitalize the original seven-story Cavalier on the Hill and a newer oceanfront hotel directly across the street. “He always does things over the top. It will be quite a landmark.”

Along with negotiating the sale of The Cavalier, Henkel advised Real Resorts on its partnership with Playa Hotels & Resorts BV to buy four luxury resorts in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Mexico. “That was pretty challenging because the transaction was from the outright sale to the advisory role in structuring the merger of two companies,” he says. “The sale incorporated not only the client receiving cash but taking part of the first deed of trust as well as stock in the new company.”

Other high-profile transactions in Henkel’s portfolio include the $53 million sale of The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, the $27 million sale of the Barcelo Radisson Hotel in Orlando, Fla., the $40 million sale of the Kingsmill Golf Resort & Spa in Williamsburg, the $13.7 million sale of the Sanderling Resort & Spa in Duck, N.C., and the $41.9 million sale of The Watergate Hotel. In addition, he was a member of the CBRE group that secured a $550 million deal for Hilton Hotels to develop a 500-room Waldorf Astoria and a 1,000-room Hilton at Bonnet Creek Resort outside Orlando.

Henkel also has sold his share of golf courses. That list includes Williamsburg National, Honey Bee and Hell’s Point in Virginia Beach and Harbour View in Suffolk. “Hotels and golf course are not real estate assets,” Henkel notes. “You’re really selling an operating business as opposed to office buildings with all the pieces in place, but the process and focus are the same.”

Challenges and complications can be expected when dealing with sales of high-profile properties, especially during a down economy when hotels and golf courses tend to take more of a battering than other commercial properties.  “It does not come easy,” Henkel says. “You’ve got to go out and make a lot of calls, secure good listings and execute on your responsibility to clients. If you do that, you’ll make good money and get good clients.”

Henkel’s attention to detail inspires colleagues throughout the company, says Adams. “With all of his incredible wealth of experience, Doug still brings an energy and enthusiasm that we would want from any of our agents that we expect to achieve high levels.” 

While sales slowed in the wake of the 2008 economic downturn, the market has steadily improved. “There’s a very high demand for hotel investments,” Henkel says. “Major private equity funds are aggressively looking to acquire hotel assets of all classes.”

Another sign of the improving market? Henkel’s own frequent hotel stays. “I’m gone some part of 35-40 weeks a year,” he says. “I go wherever a deal arises. If I can do a good job for my clients, I’m happy.”

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