“I don’t know the depth of what they’re really going to offer, where it begins and ends,” a friend of Mr. Sitt’s said, not wanting to be quoted for fear of insulting him. “Retail is such a high-touch business and there are all sorts of sensitivities. How some retailers will ultimately view a landlord handling their leasing … I think there are some questions about that. I’m not sure if, in the end, it amounts to one-offs or a comprehensive third-party solution.”
Mr. Sitt isn’t the only major retail investor who has seen opportunity and has made moves to get involved in arranging leasing transactions.
Crown Acquisitions, a rival of Thor Equities, last year acquired a brokerage group from Madison Marquette to give the firm, which is also a major owner of retail in the city, a hand in arranging deals outside of its own portfolio.
Ms. Gliatta dismissed the idea that the big services companies have deeper transactional capability because of their broad geography and market intel.
“Data is readily available, on CoStar or Property Shark—in this new world of modern technology it’s all out there,” she said. “What you can’t get is industry expertise and the relationships and commitment that we offer here at Thor High Street. In a world of communications where everyone talks over emails, Joe is a get-on-the-phone kind of guy. It’s a relationship-driven business, but service is going out the window because people lose the touch of verbal communication.”
Andrew Heiberger, a business partner of Mr. Sitt’s who has developed residential projects with him and now operates Thor’s residential brokerage company, Town Residential, described the depth of Mr. Sitt’s financial backing as what gave Town the ability to emerge as one of the city’s top high-end leasing and sales companies.
“When I wanted to start another brokerage company, I knew it wouldn’t be possible without a major amount of cash to start this,” Mr. Heiberger said. “You need a partner, and Joe believes in me and the business.”
The international scope of High Street could be one of the savviest components of Mr. Sitt’s vision for High Street. The buzz has been on for years about surging emerging markets like Brazil and China and India, but Mr. Sitt has clearly set his sights on following retailers who are interested in pushing farther.
“I’m not just bullish on Brazil, I’m bullish on Latin America,” Mr. Sitt said. “Personally speaking, I’m not any more bullish on Brazil than I am on Colombia or Mexico or Peru or Panama. We’re putting more boots on the ground in Latin America. We had about four executives there, now we’re scaling up to 12. They’ll be based in Mexico City and we’ll have satellite offices in Panama and Brazil.”
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