Nelson Mills, Jeff Gronning and Paul Teti

Nelson Mills, Jeff Gronning and Paul Teti


Nelson Mills, Jeff Gronning and Paul Teti

President, CEO and Director; Executive Vice President and CIO; Executive Vice President of Real Estate Operations at Columbia Property Trust

Last year's rank: 64

Nelson Mills, Jeff Gronning and Paul Teti
By May 17, 2021 9:00 AM

Columbia Property Trust is trying to lead by example, not only with their return to the office, but with several diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the historically homogenous commercial real estate industry.

After the pandemic began, Columbia’s share prices dropped by about 60 percent, Nelson Mills said. Columbia deals almost exclusively with office properties — only about 4 percent of revenues come from retail — and it’s been a tough year for the office, especially in New York City. But Mills felt optimistic about a return to work — one Columbia already began.

“We’ve been … getting ourselves back into the office so that we can welcome our tenants back,” Jeff Gronning said. “We’ve also been trying to determine how we need to change the way we operate our buildings … [for] tenants that now have different options in terms of hybrid work.”

Nationally, Columbia signed 21 new leases in 2020 totaling 262,141 square feet. In New York City, it signed two leases totaling 49,478 square feet: Amazon and streaming company Twitch, which took the top two floors of Columbia’s 315 Park Avenue South.

As for its efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion, Columbia formed committees following George Floyd’s murder to educate company leaders, review and adjust how some of the 170 employees are compensated, start a paid internship program for minority college students, and set targets for diversity at different levels of management.

“While we’ve come to a lot of great things from a business standpoint [in] the health and safety of our tenants, preparing our building for reentry and modifying our approach to the business, the DEI focus of our team is one of the things we’re most proud of,” Mills said.

The company has also received an acquisition offer from a group of investors, including Arkhouse Partners. Mills said they’re taking the process very seriously and expect multiple parties to take a look at the company.

Columbia ended the quarter with 94 percent of its properties leased, and Mills said the company’s office tenants, mostly in the media and technology sectors, fared better during the pandemic.—C.Y.