Anthony Thompson on Grubb & Ellis, the State of Real Estate…and Golf

CPN spoke this morning with Anthony Thompson (pictured), retiring chairman of Grubb & Ellis Co. and architect of the recent megamerger between Grubb & Ellis and NNN Realty Advisors Inc.CPN:What’s next for Tony Thompson? Thompson: The last ten years or so have been tremendous, but also a lot of hard work, especially with the merger, so I’m going to take a little while off to smell the roses and take some trips with my wife. But this is a very interesting time in real estate. Even considering the state of the economy, there will still be various opportunities ahead to invest in various kinds of real estate companies or portfolios, investments that will offer competitive returns. I’m looking around, talking to a lot of people. The way things are today, the advantage will be to lower-leveraged, higher-equity investors. CPN:Will the Grubb & Ellis-NNN Realty Advisors merger be the last of the really big mergers for a while in real estate? Thompson: Typically, in more difficult times, there aren’t as many consolidations as in better times, but on the other hand the multiples that will be paid for companies in the near future is trending downward versus the heyday of 2006. So there will be some mergers and acquisitions in the real estate and financial space, but I’m certain the pace will slow down. CPN:Is the combined Grubb & Ellis platform advantageous in the current climate? Thompson: It is. Grubb & Ellis now manages over 200 million square feet nationwide, so we have coverage in large, medium and small markets. People will look to such national coverage to help them evaluate their properties, and to help them sell them at a price they’re willing to accept. Also, our research is tremendous, the product of an exception team built up in recent years. In times like this, good information is especially important. The combined Grubb & Ellis has a leg up in terms of the information it can offer. Finally, there’s a lot of synergy between the Grubb & Ellis brokers and the NNN acquisition team — which bodes well for increasing our activity in the triple-net market, even if transactions in the market as a whole slow down.CPN:You were in Scottsdale yesterday playing in a pro-am tournament with the likes of pro golfer Boo Weekley. What was on your mind out there on the course? Anything to do with real estate? Thompson: Always the same thing when I’m playing with a pro, and in front of people: don’t hit anyone.