The Recovering Bostonian
Jotham Sederstrom March 15, 2010, 12:39 p.m.
It was not as a marketing analyst for LaSalle Partners that Frank Doyle first saw his star rise. It was at the Wiz.
Blockbuster Video was only a few years old in the summer of 1988, and Mr. Doyle, fresh out of Dartmouth and less than a year into a job at LaSalle, had taken to moonlighting as a VCR salesman at a Greenwich Village outpost of the electronics chain.
While the real estate industry continued to recover from the 1987 stock market crash, the market for VCRs was booming, and as a result, Mr. Doyle rose to the challenge. Quite literally, reader, nobody beat him.
“I was the top salesperson at the Wiz and was rewarded for having the highest percentage of sales contracts,” recalled Mr. Doyle, who, during two whirlwind years, worked nights and weekends at the store to raise tuition for business school. “To me, I was making money for school, but I was also working on my sales skills.”
His job at the Wiz is long behind him, but Mr. Doyle, 45, never left LaSalle, nor ever really stopped sharpening his sales skills. In 23 years at what is now Jones Lang LaSalle, the Boston native has earned a reputation as one of the industry’s most aggressive salesmen.
Indeed, since joining the firm, Mr. Doyle and his colleagues have been instrumental in expanding the company’s portfolio from 1.5 million feet to a whopping 30 million, thanks in part to the broker’s leasing activity on behalf of top-tier landlords like Boston Properties, SL Green, MetLife and Mutual of America, among others. Over the past 20 years, Mr. Doyle has completed approximately 1,000 leasing deals totaling more than 12 million feet, most of it comprised of trophy space in midtown and Lower Manhattan.
Despite a yearlong slowdown prompted by the Lehman Brothers crash, a string of recent high-profile leasing deals at trophy buildings across midtown has caused a ripple effect for Mr. Doyle. In December, he finalized a deal on behalf of Standard Chartered Bank to occupy 110,000 square feet at the Equity Office-owned 1095 Avenue of the Americas. In the same month, he reversed roles, leasing 100,000 feet to Citadel as a rep for Boston Properties.
It was in January, however, that Mr. Doyle finalized one of the most buzzed about transactions of the previous year: a 245,000-square-foot lease for cosmetics company Avon at 777 Third Avenue. The deal on behalf of the William Kaufman Organization ranks among the largest of 2010 so far. As Mr. Doyle describes it, his team at Jones Lang LaSalle was in discussions with as many as four serious candidates—a law firm, a publisher and a financial services group among them—before Avon emerged late in the bidding process.
“We decided to go to the consumer products user,” said Mr. Doyle of Avon, whose space needs were six times larger than those of other potential tenants vying for the property. “Avon is getting a significant presence and presentation in the building, and we think it’s going to have a tremendous value implication on the asset.”
But what Mr. Doyle characterized as one of his most challenging assignments is the still unfolding drama surrounding Goldman Sachs and its unwieldy decision to vacate 1.1 million square feet at its longtime 85 Broad Street headquarters sometime next year. As a rep for landlord MetLife, Mr. Doyle and Jones Lang LaSalle New York president Peter Riguardi are leading a charge to find replacement tenants to occupy the 30-story office tower.
“We’re in the early stages of this marketing campaign,” said Mr. Doyle, who added that several trading proposals have already begun to trickle in. “We certainly aren’t going to lease to partial-floor users, and I think this is going to make sense for a larger user. But it’s not realistic to think we can find another single tenant who’s going to take over all the space.”
MR. DOYLE WAS RAISED in South Boston, though he’s the first to point out that his New England roots have all but vanished. Indeed, as a young professional intent on pursuing a career in business, Mr. Doyle moved to New York and soon began work at investment banking firm Drexel Burnham Lambert, the entity that would later be mired in the junk bond scandals of the early 1990s.
It was there he met his future wife, Stacey Lauren, but it was before the romance bloomed that the firm first embezzled a bit of Boston pride from Mr. Doyle.
“I was at a training program there, and the first day I showed up, they had me meet with a language specialist,” said Mr. Doyle, who describes himself not as a Red Sox fan but a Mets follower, in part to play foil to his three daughters, Yankees diehards all. “During the interview process, they identified that I had this Boston accent that had to be addressed. So five days a week, for an hour a day, I was going in with a language specialist, who had me doing muscle-strengthening exercises for my tongue so I could work on my Rs.”
With his business desires still percolating but his accent behind him, Mr. Doyle dug into a career at LaSalle Partners that had him investing all his energy into market analysis at the former Daily News building at 220 East 42nd Street and at 745 Fifth Avenue. Six months later, the firm won an assignment to lease the formerly named Citicorp Center at 601 Lexington Avenue, where Jones Lang LaSalle’s New York offices operate.
The plan, recalled Mr. Doyle, was to capitalize on LaSalle Partners’ reputation as a training ground for business school hopefuls. That path swerved to real estate, however, after the thrill of being awarded leasing duties at 601 Lexington fully kicked in. Twenty-three years later, he still heads up leasing at the building.
To be sure, Mr. Doyle just inked two separate financial-services deals at 601 Lexington last week. Details, he promised, would come this month.
“We know this building pretty well because our occupancy has been here for 10 years,” said a modest Mr. Doyle, who, almost as an afterthought, added, “By the way, I’ve been here longer.”
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