CPE’s Stars to Watch 2019: High IQ for Corporate HQs

Fifteen years ago, Aaron Sommer joined Newmark Knight Frank’s small Atlanta office as an associate for his first job out of college.

Aaron Sommer, 37

Senior Managing Director, Newmark Knight Frank

Aaron Sommer
Aaron Sommer

Fifteen years ago, Aaron Sommer joined Newmark Knight Frank’s small Atlanta office as an associate. It was his first job out of college. The headcount at the Atlanta business has since grown from a handful to more than 150, and that’s not including the property management and appraisal groups. “It’s been an interesting ride,” Sommer says of spending his entire career at the advisory firm.

Sommer quickly worked his way up the ladder while becoming one of NKF’s top producers in the Southeast. During his 15-year career at the firm, he has negotiated more than 5 million square feet of transactions with a total value exceeding $500 million.

Sommer’s domain is national-level tenant representation, with a focus on corporate headquarters advisory services. The core of his business is still in Atlanta, but the executive also has major projects in other parts of the country, including Salt Lake City; La Jolla, Calif.; and Memphis.

The complex, large-scale nature of the projects is what he says makes his job engaging, challenging and fun. “There are so many different elements that are involved with headquarters deals,” from cultural and human resources requirements to state and local incentives, Sommer noted. “A lot of my work is build-to-suit, so I’m involved in the construction elements of it and the financing for the deals and the developer selection.”

Among his major accomplishments, Sommer points to the global headquarters relocation effort for ServiceMaster, a Fortune 1000 firm and owner of the Terminix brand. Following a two-year site selection process, Sommer and his colleagues helped the company move its 1,200-person headquarters office and Innovation Center from four separate buildings in the suburbs to downtown Memphis. The new headquarters is a showcase not only of corporate relocation but also of adaptive reuse. Peabody Place, a downtown Memphis mall that closed its doors in 2012, was transformed into a premier office property and renamed One ServiceMaster Center.

Biggest Mentors: Sommer cites a pair of NKF vice chairmen, Neal Golden and Bert Sanders, as key figures in his professional development. The respect is mutual. “Aaron has proven to be one of our most versatile brokers and has answered every challenge during his time at NKF,” Golden praised, calling the young executive “a battle-tested leader.”

What He Likes About the Job: “I’m not just doing the same thing and showing space every day. It’s more of a consultative role. I’m working with leadership teams at some of the biggest companies in the country, understanding what’s important in their business, and what’s driving their real estate decisions.”

Meet the rest of CPE’s Stars to Watch for 2019—commercial real estate’s top young talent.