Commercial Investment

Winner

Bob Safai

Madison Partners

Runners Up

Martin Morgenstern

Cushman Realty Corp.

Marc Renard

Cushman & Wakefield of California Inc.

The key to Bob Safai's stellar year in 1998: "off-market deals." That's real estate lingo for deals that involve properties that aren't listed for sale.

Here's how Safai works:

He learns what types of properties and areas of town his clients are interested in, then he finds properties that fit that description. It doesn't matter if the property isn't listed for sale in fact, that's often preferable.

His real task is wooing the owner to sell.

Safai says such deals allow the buyer to avoid a bidding war, the seller to get a discrete deal, and both sides to get favorable terms.

It's a strategy that Safai used to generate much of the $250 million worth of commercial property acquisitions he brokered last year, of which $158 million worth was in Los Angeles County. That makes him the top commercial investment broker in the county. He was named one of the top brokers in the country last year by both National Real Estate Investor and Commercial Property News.

His biggest off-market deal: representing Kennedy-Wilson in its $27.5 million acquisition of the 22-story building at 6255 Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood.

"There were other brokers pursuing the owner, but I presented a deal that showed value to the seller and the buyer. And I got it," said Safai, a USC graduate.

He also handled Kennedy-Wilson's acquisition of the 17-story 6380 Wilshire Blvd. building in the Miracle Mile district for about $14 million.

In fact, more than $100 million of Safai's business last year, or roughly two-thirds of his L.A. County total, came from representing Kennedy-Wilson.

Nick Kanieff, president of Kennedy-Wilson's commercial real estate investment group, explained why his company has given so much work to Safai.

"Bob looks at deals like a principal," Kanieff said. "Last year the real estate market was on fire and buyers were paying the highest prices, but Bob used his uncanny ability to analyze deals to convince some sellers that going for the maximum money wasn't necessarily the best way to go. Instead, he focused on marrying logical buyers to logical sellers. I've never experienced that with another broker."

So what does Safai do if he finds a building that two of his clients would like to buy?

He explains the situation to both clients and works with them to determine who gets the deal. "It doesn't happen that often," he says.

And sometimes, even when both sides are willing to deal, an agreement can be tough to reach.

"It takes a lot of work and you can wind up with an empty bag of air," Safai said. "But if you do enough homework, you can get the two parties to agree to do the deal."

Margot Carmichael Lester

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