Brett Rosenberg Went From Intern to UCC Foreclosure Wiz at JLL

And now she's ready for as many commercial foreclosures as a rocky market can throw at her

reprints


Brett Rosenberg has made crises her friend at JLL (JLL)

In her nearly two decades at the brokerage, Rosenberg has navigated loan sales during the Global Financial Crisis, managed Uniform Commercial Code foreclosures during the pandemic and, just this year, watched one of New York’s key regional banks get taken over by federal regulators. 

SEE ALSO: As ICSC Las Vegas Wraps, Attendees Lament Too Many Deals and Not Enough Space

Throughout the tumult, she’s always come out ahead. 

In 2021 alone, Rosenberg handled $2 billion worth of foreclosure transactions — one of the few finance professionals to reach that volume, according to JLL, and one of the few women to do so, period. She also helped Invictus Real Estate Partners buy the $88 million nonperforming note on CW Realty Group’s luxury, mixed-use building The Kent House in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, from Prophet Capital that same year — in one of the biggest deals at the pandemic’s start, Rosenberg said.

“Not everybody had conviction on how the Brooklyn market, retail and multifamily was going to rebound,” Rosenberg said. “There were a lot of challenges to overcome in selling the story of New York and its ability to recover.”

Before the 2008 Great Recession — and long before the pandemic and Signature Bank’s collapse — Rosenberg was working at the financial services company E-Trade and taking classes at New York University’s School of Professional Studies for fun. She had always been interested in finance thanks to her father, a foreign currency salesman, who taught her what a foreign currency swap was by the time she graduated high school. 

As a first-time apartment owner living in New York City, the 1999 Michigan grad grew interested in real estate because it was more tangible than the stock market, Rosenberg said. Without family connections in an industry dominated by so-called “nepo babies,” Rosenberg headed to Columbia Business School to weave herself a network.

“The bricks, location and story of each building was unique and fascinating, and that really compelled me to go back to school full time to make a career change to real estate,” Rosenberg said in an email. 

It didn’t take long. After her first year at Columbia, Rosenberg scored an internship in JLL’s capital markets team. She’s remained there since, the team growing around her from 15 in 2006 to 44 today.

“Because the group was so small, I had the opportunity to work on many different types of deals and asset types all around the country, including debt placement, joint venture equity raise, and what turned out to be a key thing for me: loan sales,” Rosenberg said. “I really learned how to price loans, and that kind of work proved key when the Great Financial Crisis came.”

During the recession, just a few years after Rosenberg started at JLL, she shifted most of her business from debt originations to loan sales. And when many of her fellow debt professionals abandoned the industry as the fallout from the crisis ensued, Rosenberg stood fast. 

“There were a lot of people who left the business during that time, but because I had skills, and we all had skills, we were able to pivot. And we had really strong relationships with our lender clients,” Rosenberg said. “We were able to build a really successful business during that time that I think further strengthened our relationship with those lenders, and then there were so many buyers who are now the biggest names in real estate today that grew out of that period.”

By the mid-2010s loan originations had started to pick up again, allowing Rosenberg to focus on sourcing debt rather than selling it. Since then, she’s worked with New York’s biggest players. 

Rosenberg helped Walter & Samuels refinance its Upper West Side office property at 227-241 West 61st Street with $60 million from Allegiant Real Estate Capital in 2017, and she scored Tribeca Associates a $120 million refinance of its office tower at 130 West 42nd Street with floating-rate debt from United Overseas Bank in 2018.

She’s also brokered deals in sunny Florida, scoring a $250 million loan from Deutsche Bank for Starwood Capital Group, LeFrak and Invesco’s 426-key hotel at 2377 Collins Avenue in 2015, and arranging a $140 million refinance of Access Industries’ Faena District properties in Miami Beach in 2018. 

But where Rosenberg truly shines is advising on the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) foreclosure sales process, said Michael Gigliotti, Rosenberg’s boss, colleague and a senior managing director and co-head of the New York office at JLL. Her knowledge is unparalleled, he said.

“She is the most crucial person at JLL to that business line, simply stated,” Gigliotti said. “It’s something that’s picking up, and she’s absolutely indispensable, not only to our business but to the market in New York City, for making sure that these processes go well and in accordance with the law.”

Rosenberg has certainly had plenty of experience in UCC filings in the past few years. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, she has worked on more than 40 UCC foreclosure transactions, whereas before the pandemic she normally worked on two or three UCC filings a year. She’s one of only a handful of female loan sale advisers in the U.S. to achieve that volume, she said. 

“I don’t like to pat myself on the back but I’m definitely the most active UCC sale adviser,” Rosenberg said. “Helping those lenders through the process, talking them through all the nuances, has definitely been a big part of my business in addition to loan sales.”

Those sales tend to be complicated and chock-full of legal requirements. In public sales, the lender is required to notify the general public about the transaction to ensure that the process is “commercially reasonable.” With rules built on case law, the process can change over time, requiring a high level of detail to navigate, Rosenberg said. 

She has been involved in UCC foreclosure proceedings in Philadelphia, Chicago and New York, including the foreclosure of Kushner Companies’ retail condominium in the former New York Times building at 229 West 43rd Street in the Theater District, according to public notice filings and Forbes. 

She even worked on the attempted foreclosure of the Mark Hotel — a favorite of royal family member Meghan Markle, according to court records. (The hotel scored a $190 million refinancing last June, according to property records.)

Rosenberg expects to keep busy into 2023, especially given the turbulent financial markets. With the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank (SBNY) and the subsequent rescue package for First Republic Bank (which, it’s worth noting, happened two days after Commercial Observer sat down with Rosenberg), she said she has fielded calls from clients trying to “position themselves for increased loan sale activity.”

“I think the FDIC stepping up has allowed everyone to take a breath and operate as best they can,” Rosenberg said. “I think it’s a distraction [and]. I think lenders are certainly going to be reassessing their loan books in the wake of this, but I think it’s too early to tell yet what all the ramifications are going to be.”

On top of navigating choppy financial markets, Rosenberg has taken it upon herself to mentor JLL’s other female employees, Gigliotti said. She wants her co-workers to see a path to the upper echelons of commercial real estate, one that JLL helped her achieve by giving her a four-day workweek after she had her first daughter in 2008, Rosenberg added.

“It’s really important that they see that there’s a way to get from where they are to where myself and some of the other senior women in our group have gotten to, with having families,” she said.

Rosenberg’s two daughters are too young to say whether they’ll follow their mother’s footsteps into real estate, but time will tell.

“They’re always interested, especially if I’m working on a building or something New York-related, in the same way that I think anyone falls in love with real estate, because it becomes tangible,” Rosenberg said. “But we’ll see.”

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.