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Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Firm Snares Rival Broker

Illi Commercial Real Estate has made a major hire that will likely shift the balance of power among retail brokerages in the San Fernando Valley real estate market. The Encino firm lured longtime Valley broker J. Richard Leyner and his team from rival Encino firm NAI Capital Inc. Leyner spent the last 23 years there and has a large number of clients. The move not only pumps up the broker count for illi, which is gaining about a half-dozen experienced brokers, but it also brings cache to a boutique firm that had limited reach. With only one satellite office in Long Beach, illi has made a name for itself representing landlords of strip centers in the San Fernando Valley, but now is expected to be a much more formidable player. “I think we’ll be a dominant force on the boulevard and throughout the Valley,” Leyner said. “I just wanted to be part of a more boutique operation more focused on retail real estate.” After the addition of Leyner and his team, illi will have about 23 brokers and currently has listings on more than 200 retail properties, though that will rise with Leyner. The company already had a strong share of Valley retail real estate. According to data from the L.A. office of Colliers International, illi had a 9.5 percent market share in all Valley retail deals in the last year, just behind NAI Capital at 10.5 percent. Centers Business Management, based in Los Angeles, has the No. 1 spot. Ranked by square footage, illi also is in third place, with CBM at No. 2 and NAI at the top spot. Illi President Todd Nathanson said he thinks his firm will now dominate Valley retail brokering. “For 23 years, I would say he’s been my main competitor. This does a lot for our business,” said Nathanson, who started illi just seven years ago with seven brokers. “Richard has pampered, long-standing relationships with landlords in the region and will be a big asset for the firm.” Michael Zugsmith, chariman at NAI, provided a statement on Leyner’s move. “Our comment is that we wish him well in his new endeavor,” he said. Kindred spirits Leyner, 77, leaves his position as a senior vice president at the Encino office of NAI to become executive vice president, or Nathanson’s right-hand man on leasing. He attained that position after taking an unconventional path in real estate. Leyner has a B.A. in marketing from New York University and began his professional career on Wall Street as managing partner at investment firm Leyner Dreskin & Co. He went on to be a member of the Appeals Committee of the New York Stock Exchange before founding Leyner Enterprises, a New Jersey based business management consulting firm. He came out to Los Angeles three years later in 1978 and got into real estate brokering. Leyner brings some big-time leasing opportunities for illi, including the 80,000-square-foot Encino Town Center, and the 40,000-square-foot Oakridge Plaza in Sherman Oaks, among many others. As part of the hire, Leyner is bringing his entire team from NAI: Michael Sharon, Dave Sedlak, John Aquino, Jeri Creson, Emily Jori and Leyner’s wife, Barbara. Sharon, who is considered Leyner’s protégé by both men, will see his position rise from vice president to senior vice president. He said the move should expand his professional colleague network. “It does increase the amount of retail brokers I deal with on a daily basis,” he said. Adam Christofferson, first vice president and regional manager at the Encino office of Marcus & Millichap Inc., said the hire will improve illi’s reputation. “It’s going to change things for illi. Todd has been around a long time, but their reputation is as a small boutique retail firm,” he said. “This gives it more of a presence and the next level of credibility in the marketplace.” Still, he said, the move isn’t close to making illi a large player in an industry where big brokerages can have thousands of brokers. “It definitely gives them a higher profile but there is a reason the largest firms are the largest – and that is not going to change,” he said. Leyner said another reason for jumping ship was long-term income. He said Nathanson and illi agreed to pay him some form of annuity on retail properties he leases, even after he retires, though he would not disclose the exact figures. “That was a major factor for me,” Leyner said. “And I wouldn’t go unless Michael Sharon came with me.” Nathanson said the firm is looking for space to expand into the Westside retail market, but that the move was a few months way. He declined to discuss projected revenue, but said he has high expectations for what Leyner can bring. Nathanson, who spent 15 years with the San Fernando Valley Division for Centers Business Management, believes he is bringing on a broker who knows the business inside and out. “We’ve both been in the pits here and know what goes on,” said Nathanson, 50. “We would have breakfast together every other month for years and joke about what we could do together, but we never really jumped on it till now.”

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