When Lewis Horne moved to Los Angeles to attend USC, he had dreams of opening a chain of pet stores, of all things, in Southern California. But by the time he graduated, he had met his future wife, Lisa, and close friend Rick Caruso, and jettisoned his original business plan. Horne got his professional start as a salesman at IBM, but made the jump to commercial brokerage Coldwell Banker, where he worked as an industrial broker. That company merged with Richard Ellis International in 1998, by which time Horne had transitioned to management. Today, Horne manages the Southern California region for CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., the giant L.A. real estate services company that arose out of the merger. Despite a hectic schedule, Horne still finds time to vacation with his family water-skiing in the summer and skiing and snowboarding in the winter. And he's got a new hobby. In the last year Horne has been waking up at 5 a.m. on weekdays to go on 20-mile bike rides around his Pasadena community. Horne recently sat down with the Business Journal in his downtown corner office to discuss his life, how his company is meeting the challenges of the recession, and those long bike rides.

Question: Tell us about why you dreamed of opening a chain of pet stores.

Answer: I originally came down to USC, believe it or not, to go through their entrepreneurial program. I was working as a regional manager of a pet company in Sacramento and I enjoyed it. We sold animals and supplies, and that sort of thing, and I enjoyed hiring the staff of the company and I got to work with animals, which I love. I was in high school up there and I thought, well I will start my own pet chain in Southern California.

Q: But that didn't happen.

A: I look back and laugh at that now because obviously my horizons were expanded when I met my friends at USC and moved from Sacramento to Southern California.

Q: I take it you still have a few pets.

A: I have a golden retriever, a Lhasa apso and a pondful of koi. The dogs were named by my children; my golden retriever is Ingo and our Lhasa is Puka. No names on the fish.

Q: So how did your horizons expand at USC?

A: I joined a fraternity, SAE, and then in the fraternity I met just a lot of people that turned out to be successful people. I met several friends that are still my best friends in the world, particularly (developer) Rick Caruso, who was the president of the fraternity and I was the one that ran the pledges. He and I became the best of friends with that process. It just expanded my horizons, by becoming friends with people that had much higher goals and aspirations. I also met my wife my second year down here.

Q: Are you and Rick still close?

A: I'm the godfather to his No. 2 child and he is the godfather to my No. 3 child. We vacation together. We spend a lot of time with each other. We are very close friends. And I've been very proud of his success. I knew early on, meeting him for the first time in college, that he was going to be a very successful professional.

Q: Why?

A: He has great vision, incredible values and great priorities. His focus on family and doing the right thing has transcended his entire life. He is coming to my daughter's debutante (event) on Saturday night he and his family. We see each other quite a bit.

Q: So how did you get into the real estate business?

A: I worked as an intern at IBM and after college I was looking for a job and IBM was my first stop; they had a great training program. I spent the first four years of my business career working as a sales professional for IBM in downtown Los Angeles.

Q: What were you selling?

A: At the time I was selling, believe it or not, Selectric typewriters and copying equipment. And then after a year I went into selling minicomputer systems system 34s, 36s that kind of thing. I got to work with manufacturing companies, distribution companies and became pretty proficient at actually working with businesses understanding what their needs were and applying the products we had at IBM to provide solutions to their needs. It was really my foundation in marketing.

Q: So how did you transition to real estate?

A: Once I was at IBM I met a friend there, Bill Chillingworth he and I would go motorcycle riding on the weekends who left IBM about a year and a half after I got there. He called and said, "This is a great company. It's got the opportunity to do very well, and at the same time you are working with very motivated and successful people." And so I started the interview process at Coldwell Banker. Ultimately, my first job at Coldwell was as an industrial salesperson in the San Fernando Valley office in 1984. I was a salesperson until 1995.

Q: Did you like being an industrial broker?

A: It was one of my favorite parts of my career because I got to work with business owners and I really learned the fundamentals of commercial real estate. We experienced a couple of market turn-downs. I did a lot of work with developers and tenants and institutional ownership, and I really developed a love for the commercial real estate industry through that process. The business was primarily the Valencia marketplace. Newhall Land and Farming was our account. And then we represented developers and occupiers who had an interest in moving to that area.

Q: How did you make the transition to the management side of the business?

A: At that time, in 1995, our company was changing. (Current CB Richard Ellis Group Chief Executive) Brett White was a manager down in Orange County and Brett recruited me, basically. He thought the skills and attributes and knowledge I had for the brokerage could be easily applied toward leadership and management and asked me to run our Glendale office. After a lot of thought I took the position, and I've never looked back.

Q: In this recession, the commercial real estate market has been hit pretty hard. Is this the worst you've ever seen?

A: Certainly as a managing director, running a region, there have been greater challenges in this downturn than ones I have seen in the past, primarily just because of the speed at which this downturn has occurred.

Q: So the big question is, of course, in your professional opinion when does it end?

A: We are certainly a year away. I think it is going to be six months after we hit the bottom that we will recognize that we've hit the bottom. We are already starting to see some signs, but I think we are at least a year away it could be a year and a half.

Q: Has the company had to cut any services?

A: We've had to scale back in certain areas, but we've not eliminated services. We are really just more efficient. We've got managing directors now that are overseeing two offices, for example. We try to do a lot more electronically.

Q: Sounds like a lot to do. When do you start your day?

A: My day starts at 5 a.m. I get up at 5 and I ride 20 miles on my bike with a couple of colleagues in the office. We will do laps around the Rose Bowl typically and up around the hills in Pasadena. I will get home and make breakfast for my wife and kids.

Q: That's an early start. When do you get home?

A: I am generally out of here by 7:30 p.m. This is a very social industry, so there is always something going on. So I try to, when I can, participate in as many of the industry functions in the city, and I also work with our Orange County professionals, too, so I am on the road. Since I've started cycling I've been going to bed earlier, around 10 or 11 o'clock.

Q: Tell me about cycling.

A: Five days a week; and we will generally do a 40- or 50-mile trip on Saturday. We will take Sunday off. I just took it up. This has just been something that I've done in the last year. I have a couple of colleagues in the office who like doing it as well. It was surprising to me, once I got my bike, how many people are interested in the sport. It seems like that has been a topic of conversation every time we go to a party.

Q: What do you like about it?

A: I like that I can get a full aerobic workout in an hour and 15 minutes, hour and a half. I like the camaraderie of it because I am doing it with friends that I enjoy being with. And I also like the idea of learning a new sport. The first time I walked into my house with my biking outfit on my kids all ran for their bedrooms. It was pretty funny.

Q: You snow ski and water ski too, right?

A: We do. My wife is one of seven girls, all who are Trojans and all who married Trojans. Pretty fun. Her family has a vacation home up at Shaver Lake, about an hour and a half northeast of Fresno. We spend a lot of time in the summers, and also in the winters, snow skiing and water-skiing.

Q: How about the motorcycle?

A: Right after we got married my wife explained to me that wasn't the most responsible thing to be doing. We had children right after we got married and right after our first child that went away.

Q: Tell me about your childhood. Was there anything about it that prepared you for being a salesman or a manager?

A: I was raised as the son of an Air Force pilot so we spent our high schools years in Sacramento, but we moved all over the country growing up. So we lived in Virginia, right outside of Washington, D.C.; we lived in Hawaii, at Wheeler Air Force Base; we lived in Southern California for a brief period while I was a child; and in Northern California that's where I spent my high school days. If anything, being an Air Force brat, I remember moving around a lot and I remember going into a lot of new schools and having to meet people relatively quickly because we knew that we'd only be living in that community for two or three years.

Q: You've got a slew of hobbies, and a job with long hours. What do you love to do most when you have free time?

A: My primary activity that I truly love is just being around my family, and being around my wife, who I have been married to for 27 years, and being around my closest friends. That would be right within my comfort zone, what I like to do the most.

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