The “senior” guy
Top producer Lou Christopher negotiates a deal that keeps a headquarters in Northern Virginia
“Many times, when you bring in a senior guy, it can be risky.” Those were the thoughts of John Germano, executive managing director of the mid-Atlantic region for CBRE, a commercial real estate services giant, before he hired Lou Christopher.
Seasoned hires sometimes put their personal advancement ahead of “the brand,” he says, but not Christopher, who was named Virginia Leasing Agent of the Year in 2014 by the Commercial Real Estate Brokerage Association of Greater Washington (CREBA). A multifaceted headquarters deal that
Christopher negotiated for CBRE in 2014 further earned the association’s vote as the region’s best leasing transaction that year.
Christopher came to CBRE in 2012 from Cushman & Wakefield Inc. with 25-plus years of experience and a reputation as a top producer. “From the day he walked in, Lou had a strategic perspective,” Germano says. “He has been transformational.”
Christopher, now a CBRE vice chairman, demonstrated his worth when he became the point man in finding a new corporate headquarters for the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), a best-practices consulting firm. CEB had been leasing offices in two locations in Rosslyn and wanted to consolidate under one roof. It was considering moving out of state, which would have meant a loss of 1,300 jobs to the NoVA economy,” says Christopher.
Under his guidance, CBRE did labor studies, worked with economic development groups and helped secure almost $10 million in incentives from Virginia, which persuaded CEB to stay in Arlington County and invest $150 million for a new headquarters operation.
The broker also worked with JBG on customizing space for his client in an office tower JBG is constructing in Rosslyn. When that 31-story, 525,000-square-foot building delivers in 2018, CEB will occupy 350,000 square feet or 15 floors of it. The building will be called the CEB Tower.
“It was as complicated as a deal can get,” Germano says. Christopher is “the ultimate professional,” says Paul Adkins, who represented JBG in the negotiations. “He is one of the few brokers who could manage such a complex transaction.”
Being able to customize space to fit CEB’s needs before the lease was signed was critical to the deal, says Christopher. For instance, younger workers, now in the majority at CEB, prefer a collaborative environment. The need for small meeting rooms has grown, notes Christopher, while the need for assigned offices has shrunk.
Work tools also have become so portable that only 50 to 60 percent of employees are in the office on any given day. When they are on site, strategies such as “free address” (unassigned work areas) have reduced the footage each worker needs from about 230 square feet 15 years ago to about 165 square feet today, he adds.
Technology also has transformed Christopher’s ability to manage multimarket clients, but at the price of making his job an almost 24-7 proposition.
“I’m always working — from getting up, to going to bed,” he admits. Yet, he’s still able to spend time boating and skiing with his wife and three children. “I just take a break from my outings to help a client,” he says.
While such dedication has been essential to his success, just as important has been that he is “good to work with,” says his boss. “You can’t have a thin skin around him,” Germano explains. “But he is very self-aware of his shortcomings, and people gravitate toward him.”