The Heat Seeker
To read Ken Siegel’s bio is to witness an impressive client list that includes many of the leading law practices and financial services firms in the country, Loeb & Loeb and HSBC among them.
What it doesn’t reveal, however, is the Jones Lang LaSalle broker’s insatiable thirst for the kind of prickly, multilayered commercial office leasing transactions that would give Rube Goldberg a headache and put the Rubik’s Cube to shame. Mr. Siegel, after all, is a keen solver of puzzles.
“If I think about my niche in this market place, I would describe it as, ‘Give me the tough ones,’ the kind of intricate, complex, strategy-oriented, large, maybe even headquarters-type transactions,” said Mr. Siegel, 51, during an interview at JLL’s Lexington Avenue offices. “Those are where I find my skill set can really add value.”
Take, for example, Mr. Siegel’s deal on behalf of the Disney-owned Good Morning America, which, on the heels of the rival Today Show‘s move to a fan-friendly ground-floor studio across from Central Park, relocated to space in Times Square with Mr. Siegel’s help.
Besides providing the morning show with an equally eye-grabbing studio, Mr. Siegel succeeded in preparing a complex transaction for Disney at 1500 Broadway in less than two weeks, one that required a complete structural renovation of what was previously a multilevel movie theater.
“It was as quick a deal as you would have ever seen,” said Mr. Siegel of the lease at the New Amsterdam Theater in 1994. “It had some bumps in the road, but we did it in record time.”
Another complex transaction Mr. Siegel executed involved the hefty relocation of what was formerly Prudential Insurance and Securities from its 1 million-square-foot office. Among the challenges raised prior to the deal, Mr. Siegel said, was deciding whether to renew and expand at One New York Plaza or relocate to an undeveloped site that the insurance company had owned in midtown. In the end, said the broker, the company renewed space at One New York Plaza while also expanding back office space by 500,000 square feet at nearby One Seaport Plaza.
“In the end, it was about how does this business operate on the island of Manhattan on a long-term basis,” recalled Mr. Siegel of the 1992 deal. “We went kind of lower cost structure for the non-client-facing business, which was important, and then maintained that headquarters-like feel for that front-office business, which was the most cost-effective choice.”
Indeed, Mr. Siegel’s prowess for complicated deals-which has also included work on behalf of financial services firm DLJ-continues to this day for clients like Bank of America and a large undisclosed media company for which Mr. Siegel inked a 50,000-square-foot lease earlier this month. Since January, he has tallied about 1 million feet in transactions, he said.
Mr. Siegel added that several pending transactions expected to be finalized within the next several weeks would further increase his tallies. “They’re significant transactions with household names in the market that everyone would recognize.” One of those two deals, he added, was expected to be finalized in days.
WITH THE EXCEPTION of a two-year stint with Cowen & Co., where he traveled the country assisting in shopping mall acquisitions, Mr. Siegel has spent most of his 22-year real estate career with Jones Lang LaSalle and its predecessor, LaSalle Partners. Asked if he had considered positions with competing firms, he answered staunchly.