A Day in the Life of Will Hutton of the Nightingale Group
Will Hutton is the director of acquisitions and capital markets for the Nightingale Group. Seeing as Nightingale is one of the most active investors in office assets, both inside and outside of the Big Apple, you’d expect his days to be pretty busy — and you’d be right.
The Wichita, Kan., native joined Nightingale in 2016, and has several buzzed-about transactions already under his belt, plus a robust pipeline of future deals in the works. The firm frequently partners with Wafra Capital Partners on transactions, with the acquisitions of 300 Lafayette Street and 111 Wall Street being just two recent, notable examples.
Hutton’s day is a mix of meetings, property tours, lender and investor calls, and team strategizing. He doesn’t like to stop, even for lunch, and works into the wee hours when necessary. But, first, coffee and some exercise.
Hutton’s alarm goes off, and he takes some time to meditate, drink iced coffee, and eat breakfast. By 6 a.m., he’s sitting in his home office, catching up on emails, or analyzing and underwriting deals while watching Squawk Box on CNBC. “This is a good time to check-in with some of our institutional investors, some of which are overseas and many hours deep into their day,” Hutton said. By 7:15 a.m., he’s at Barry’s Bootcamp, where he trains four days per week. A retired powerlifter at 27 — twice state champion and a state record holder in Kansas — if he’s not at Barry’s, he’s busy lifting weights with his trainer. Unless he has a breakfast meeting, Hutton is typically in the office by 8:30 a.m. Today is different, because Hutton is kicking things off at Nightingale’s property at 300 Lafayette Street in SoHo. The Nightingale team likes to conduct a building tour around 9 a.m. to get a true feel for the lobby dynamic and building flow during a peak time. Normally a subway devotee, Hutton instead takes an Uber to 300 Lafayette Street, because he has to take a call with Nightingale’s lawyers en route regarding a joint venture agreement.
Hutton tours a state-of-the-art buildout for a new tenant at Nightingale’s 300 Lafayette Street in SoHo. He declines to comment on the tenant’s identity but, in May 2019, Commercial Observer reported that Microsoft had inked a 63,000-square-foot lease at the 83,000-square-foot property, so we think that’s a pretty good guess. Nightingale and WCP are joint venture partners in the COOKFOX Architects-designed building, which includes outdoor terraces on each of the office floors.
Once the building tour is done, Hutton takes the subway to Nightingale’s office at 1430 Broadway. Handily, the property at 300 Lafayette Street sits atop the Broadway-Lafayette Street subway stop. “If I don’t have a phone call scheduled, I prefer to take the subway instead of an Uber, because it’s much faster,” Hutton said.
Hutton gets down to business, making and taking calls until his next meeting. In the half hour that follows, he has discussed the underwriting for three deals in Nightingale’s pipeline with Chief Executive Officer Elie Schwartz. “The man keeps me on my toes,” Hutton said. “If I tell him that I think something is impossible, to him, that’s a challenge, and he makes it possible. He has proven me wrong too many times. Never bet against Elie Schwartz!” Hutton works hand in hand with Schwartz most days. “He is by far the most creative and nimble dealmaker I have ever come across,” Hutton said. “He turns a problem into a home run. He always seems to win.” He also takes a call with Nightingale’s lender on a new acquisition the firm is closing on in the next day or so.
Hutton meets with Nightingale’s vice president of property management, Brent Hutchinson, to discuss the operating expenses for a potential new acquisition that the firm is pursuing. “Our property management, asset management, construction management, and leasing teams are very clued into our acquisitions and capital markets team, its process, and its due diligence,” Hutton said. “Brent’s team identified a handful of operating expenses that they believe they can reduce or re-bid shortly after closing, which will lead to an immediate NOI [net-operating income] gain and instant value-add for our institutional investors. “That is certainly one of the benefits of being a vertically-integrated, owner-operator and investor with everything in-house,” Hutton added. “It’s why institutional investors like to partner with us; they have complete trust in us. We are nimble and add value quickly. We roll up our sleeves and do the dirty work. We are problem-solvers, and that seems to be where we find the best risk-adjusted returns. We embrace challenges that others shy away from and create solutions that maximize value.”
“We meet as a team every other week to discuss updates throughout our national portfolio, and our property and asset managers meet much more frequently than that,” Hutton said. “As a national company with a footprint in over 20 states, we are in constant communication across the country, ensuring business plans are executed, operations are optimized, inefficiencies are reversed, vacancies are leased, and value is added.” Once the meeting is done, it’s work and calls until his next meeting. “If I’m not having a working lunch out of the office, I’m eating lunch at my desk as I work. I don’t stop to eat. Working lunches can be a time suck, and I am all about efficiency. I only take working lunches if they are important.”
Hutton meets Newmark Knight Frank’s Dustin Stolly for coffee at Taylor St. Coffee in Bryant Park. Stolly’s team has arranged financing for several of Nightingale’s properties, including 300 Lafayette Street, and is currently in the process of sourcing debt for 111 Wall Street. “We also discussed the state of the capital markets, because he has a better pulse on the market than anyone else,” Hutton said. “We’re pursuing a headline acquisition, and I wanted to get his opinion on the debt. He is the best in the business.” From 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Hutton pounds the phones. He speaks with a European institutional investor, as well as a U.S.-based investor, to discuss partnering on new acquisitions. The latter has “different investment criteria, so we are discussing synergies.” Then, he hops back on the subway to 111 Wall for a property tour.
It’s all happening at 111 Wall Street. Nightingale — along with WCP — acquired the leasehold interest in the 1.1 million-square-foot asset in January this year, and word on the street is that the partnership also recently signed a hard contract to acquire the leased fee position in the asset. Stolly’s team is currently working on an $860 million redevelopment loan for the property. “We’re underway with a massive renovation,” Hutton said. “We are looking at the rooftop, where we’re adding a tenant amenity and outdoor experience with panoramic waterfront and skyline views.” The next few hours include a slew of work calls, as well as a dinner with an Asian institutional investor to discuss partnering on new acquisitions in Little Italy. “We pride ourselves in being prudent stewards of institutional capital,” Hutton said. “We will only present the right opportunity that meets their investment mandate, and a business plan that we have a complete and absolute conviction on executing, especially in this market.”