Real estate deals have come a long way since John Lund opened the Lund Co. three decades ago with a part-time secretary and a telephone connected to the wall by a cord.
Back then, Lund relied on thick shoe leather to build relationships and, over steak lunches, made big decisions that were limited to property within the Omaha city limits. Today's faster-paced and cyber-based world puts Lund's 178 employees within a computer keystroke's reach of accessing global market information and of closing a deal via smartphone.
To stay competitive and growing, Lund said the company he founded will announce another change today. The homegrown, full-service commercial real estate firm on Jan. 1 will join forces with Cushman & Wakefield, which bills itself as the world's largest privately held commercial real estate services firm with 243 offices and 14,000 employees in 60 countries.
“It's time,” said the admittedly nostalgic Lund, who will remain as CEO but already has turned over the presidency to Jason Fisher. “I'm not fighting. Change is important. If you're not part of a larger company, you run the risk of not competing or growing.”
He and other Lund executives stressed that their firm — known for luring new-to-Omaha stores such as Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma to the Regency Court shopping center, which it manages and owns, and for developing such projects as the PayPal campus — will remain independently owned and locally led and operated.
Lund markets and manages more than 8 million square feet of retail, office, industrial, agricultural and apartment properties valued at more than $1 billion. None of the company's existing ownership or other arrangements will change, Fisher said.
Rather, Lund becomes the 37th member of the Alliance program established by Cushman & Wakefield in 2002 to expand its client services to major U.S. markets in which it didn't own an office. The global company pursued the Omaha partner, and Lund and Fisher said local brokers welcomed the additional connections, resources and growth potential.
“We were flattered,” said Fisher, who said the Lund Co. will pay an annual membership fee that he called nominal compared with the exposure and tools gained.
Perhaps the most visible and immediate change for Omahans will be signs — the Cushman & Wakefield name will be added to numerous Lund Co. placards at the office and sites across Nebraska and western Iowa. Letterhead, receptionist greetings and other identifiers also will reflect the alliance membership.
A broader communitywide impact is expected as Cushman & Wakefield representatives throw Omaha's name into the mix of potential places for businesses to open companies. Fisher said that is happening already, and he knows Omaha is on a “short list” of possibilities for a company that hadn't considered Omaha until Cushman suggested it.
Chicago-based Shawn P. Mobley, president of Cushman & Wakefield's central region, is in Omaha for today's announcement and said the partnership “puts Omaha on another map.”
“When clients are talking to us about places where we do business or successes we have, Omaha is more and more becoming part of that discussion,” he said.
Mobley, who was raised in Omaha and graduated from Central High School, said his company picked Omaha, and then Lund, after an analysis of U.S. markets where it wanted a presence. Cushman was attracted by the city's Fortune 500 companies and “strong vibrant business community.”
Meanwhile, Fisher said, “Our third-party business over the last nine years has grown exponentially to the point where, to perform our services at a high enough level, we needed a global brand.”
The alliance reflects a “mega trend,” Mobley said. “People want one-stop shopping. They want to be able to have all of their solutions provided by one provider, across geography and across services.”
John Lund said “a name is very powerful in our industry” and the identity-changing decision was not made lightly.
To keep up with the sophistication and specialization that has consumed today's commercial real estate industry, Lund said, “we just have to do it.”
“Lund has moved aside, if you will. But together we're better, and I'm excited.”
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Lund Co.: >> Founded in 1981 by John Lund. Partnership group includes Gerald Kelly and Richard Secor Jr. Jason Fisher is president. >> Manages 8.3 million square feet of properties, including retail, office, industrial, agricultural and multifamily property valued at about $1.2 billion; has grown to offer an array of services including brokerage, consulting, investment acquisition and development. >> Involved in 30 affiliated investment partnerships valued at more than $200 million. >> Projects include development of PayPal buildings and the Securities America Building. Lund owns and manages Regency Court shopping center and manages Midtown Crossing's retail and residential properties. >> A $15 million transformation of the 450 Regency Parkway building into Lund's headquarters led to “development of the year” award from CREW, the region's commercial real estate workshop.
Cushman & Wakefield: >> Founded in 1917, headquartered in New York; has 243 offices and more than 14,000 employees in 60 countries. >> Calls itself the world's largest privately held commercial real estate services firm. >> Added Omaha-based Lund Co. as the 37th member of its Alliance program, which it says consists of “best-of-class independent companies.” >> Offers a range of services for all property types, including leasing, sales and acquisitions, debt and equity financing, investment banking, property management, consulting and appraisal. >> Manages and leases more than 800 million square feet of properties globally. Sources: Lund Co. and Cushman & Wakefield