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Local NAI Division Speaks Language of Real Estate

Most large commercial real estate brokers span the country by setting up local offices and they target the world with global offices. But NAI Capital has developed a new division that addresses what happens in between, that is, when international clients come knocking on U.S. doors for properties. Encino-based NAI has launched a Pacific Rim division designed to help investors from across Asia and the Middle East navigate the U.S. real estate market. The division will focus first in the Southern California market, but officials expect that similar units will be set up in other parts of the country. “When I was in Germany I was hungry and I don’t speak German,” said Christine A. Lee, NAI executive vice president, who with Tom Nguyen co-founded the Pacific Rim division. “I ran right to McDonald’s. When you’re in a foreign country and you don’t know where to go, you go somewhere you can relate to.” Lee, formerly a senior advisor at Sperry Van Ness, believes it is that kind of thinking that will draw foreign investors from Pacific Rim countries to the NAI brokers. She speaks Chinese and Japanese, among other languages. Nguyen, a real estate attorney who ran his own brokerage Realco Commercial Inc., is Vietnamese. The team plans to hire a number of other brokers, all with language proficiency in one or more Asian languages. But it isn’t just the ability to communicate in the native language of their clients that the division will offer. Lee explained that the new division can offer a familiarity with Asian cultures and the way business is conducted in those cultures which is largely missing from the American landscape. At the same time, the brokers have the expertise to negotiate on common ground with American firms on behalf of their foreign clients. “A lot of successful investors already have those investment skills, but they don’t have American skills,” said Lee. “In some countries, you look at location, location, location and pay a premium. Americans will ask, what is the cap rate?” Lee estimates that some 60 percent of investors now seeking property in the U.S. are from Asian countries, maybe more. These investors may have worked with the foreign offices of American real estate brokerages, but those brokers are not familiar with the local business scene. NAI Global, the international affiliate of NAI Capital here, operates in 300 markets spanning 40 countries. The Pacific Rim division can coordinate with the company’s foreign offices, but they will also be on the ground here in the U.S. better able to service clients who are seeking American properties. “A lot of companies have divisions, but they really don’t have the ability to liaise between the two offices,” said Lee, who earlier in her career was the first woman ex-pat to head Mitsui Trust & Banking Co. Ltd. in the U.S. “I have Japanese companies asking for tenants for their shopping center in Japan or vice versa. We can use our network system to help those clients.” Although the division will be housed within NAI’s Encino-based operation, the brokers may be based throughout Southern California. No goal has yet been set for the number of brokers that will staff the division. But all the hires will have both language skills and cultural familiarity with at least one of the Pacific Rim countries. “We’re picky,” Lee said. “That’s why we’re not going to have 100 brokers tomorrow.” Entertaining Move Anyone see George Lucas around? A local company that’s been tapped by the famed film director to convert the Star Wars movie series into 3-D is expanding its operation into new offices in Westlake Village. In-Three has inked a deal to lease 36,800 square feet at 4580 Thousand Oaks Blvd., a move that reflects a huge expansion for the company, which now operates out of about 7,000 square feet in Agoura Hills. The 10-year lease is valued at about $11 million. The space had been leased by Tekelec, which later opted out when it decided to move its operations to North Carolina. In-Three has developed a process that converts full-length motion pictures into 3D format. Tom Festa and Sam Monempour, brokers with Grubb & Ellis, represented the tenant. The landlord, Greenhill Development, was represented by Tom Dwyer and Michael Slater at CB Richard Ellis. Kosmont Relocates The Kosmont Cos. has relocated its offices to Encino from downtown L.A. The 10-year-old company provides a range of real estate services including brokerage, finance, investment and planning. Kosmont is perhaps best known nationally for its Kosmont-Rose Institute Cost of Doing Business Survey, which tracks and compares the business environment in terms of taxes, fees and incentives for many cities. Simi Valley Deals OMP Industrial has acquired a 105,083-square-foot R & D; building in Simi Valley for $8,050,000. The company is also scheduled to break ground next month on Chatsworth Business Centre, a 167,000-square-foot project to include 16 buildings offered for sale. Stuart Milligan, Steve Algermissen, Sean Scott, Richard Plummer and Ray Howden, all with Cushman & Wakefield, represented the buyer and the seller, Bixby Ranch Co. Senior reporter Shelly Garcia can be reached at (818) 316-3123 or by e-mail at sgarcia@sfvbj.com.

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