Robert Shibuya

Firm: Insignia Commercial Group Inc.

Age: 36

Specialty: Acquisition and management of office and industrial properties

Recent deal: Three-year management contract for the highrise at 444 S. Flower St., to be named Citibank Center.

Robert Shibuya is part of L.A. real estate's youth brigade.

At 26, he was one of the youngest division managers in Cushman & Wakefield's history, heading up its San Francisco commercial property management division.

Last year, at age 35 and after a switch in employers, he took over the whole state, being named senior managing director of the western division of Insignia Commercial Group Inc. Most people in similar positions are well into their 40s, he said.

He oversees all of the company's commercial real estate assignments in its five California districts representing some 40 million square feet of real estate out of Insignia's 150 million square feet nationwide.

Shibuya attributes his quick rise to youthful career hunger, but says there were a few industry conditions that helped him along the way.

At the time he was first promoted at Cushman & Wakefield, "property managers were (usually) people with engineering and technical backgrounds," Shibuya said.

"Cushman wanted to change that and have people with finance savvy and marketing capabilities, which I had," he said. "San Francisco is one of the most sophisticated commercial markets anywhere, and if you can be successful there or in Los Angeles, you can make it anywhere."

If the winning of management contracts is any indication, Shibuya quickly passed muster, leading the San Francisco office to expand its assignment portfolio from 3.5 million square feet in 1986 to 10 million square feet by the turn of the decade.

It was about then that Cushman asked Shibuya to transfer to head its larger market in Los Angeles.

In 1992, Shibuya was snapped up by a commercial real estate management firm, which was bought by Insignia in late 1994. Insignia handles leasing, construction, management and disposition of properties.

As the real estate market continues its upward trend, Shibuya is positioning Insignia to take advantages of new opportunities, such as the return of actual development.

"A lot of real estate companies got out of developing when that market dried up, and I've just hired a West Coast development chief so we can become more active in ownership again," he said.

Wade Daniels

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