Scratching Entrepreneurial Itch – Pope & Land VP Ventures Out with Greenstone Properties

From the December 17, 2004 print edition

Jarred Schenke
Staff writer

A 17-year veteran of one of Atlanta’s largest office developers is striking out on his own. De Little, senior vice president of Pope & Land Enterprises Inc., is resigning his position Jan. 1 and is forming his own real estate venture called Greenstone Properties Inc.

Greenstone, which will be focused on real estate investment and development, will work with Pope & Land on a list of future developments as well as scout the market for new opportunities, Little said.

Little, 44, and Pope & Land President Larry Kelly called the parting amicable, and emphasized that Greenstone’s new offices will still be housed “an elevator ride away” from Pope & Land’s offices in Cumberland Center IV.

Greenstone will enter into joint ventures with Pope & Land, including a litany of potential office projects throughout the metro area such as a 260,000-square-foot building at Northwinds office park in Alpharetta, which will be built in conjunction with Duke Realty Corp. (NYSE: DRE); a 160,000-square-foot building that is considered phase two of Milton Park on North Point Parkway; and a planned Two Glenlake, a 350,000-square-foot tower next to the One Glenlake project.

Greenstone also will joint venture with Pope & Land on the future development of 270 acres between McFarland and Union Hill roads formerly controlled by mall developer The Rouse Co.

Kelly said the groups laid plans to develop a mixed-use campus of office buildings, hotels, retail stores and residential neighborhoods after Pope & Land acquired an additional 200-plus acres recently. Greenstone also will handle leasing and asset management for Milton Park, Northwinds, Glenlake, Cumberland Office Park and the Union Hill properties.

“If there was ever a time in my career, if there was ever a pause in those series of deals to allow us to do this, now’s the time,” Little said.

Little said he’s always wanted to start his own company and is now responding to an “entrepreneurial itch.”

“I’m just one of those guys that’s driven to have a big piece of a small pie [rather] than a small piece off a big pie,” he said.

Job hopping continues

Little is the latest real estate executive to job hop around the Atlanta market.

Recently, Jeff Shaw — the leasing director at PC Associates, which handled Buckhead’s Piedmont Center office complex — resigned and joined Scott Jackson’s startup firm as a partner. Jackson and Kevin Oats, two former Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. brokers, started Jackson Corporate Real Estate earlier this year with a kitty of $200 million to buy real estate in Atlanta. Shaw’s name will be added to the corporate logo to form Jackson Oats Shaw Corporate Real Estate.

“I thought it was time to start my own company,” Shaw said. “The market has been down for so long, and now that the market is starting to turn, people are seeing opportunities.”

It certainly has been a year for job hopping. Among the notable changes for real estate executives:

Dick Bryant, who left Advantis/GVA Real Estate Services to form his own venture. In turn, former CarrAmerica Realty Corp. (NYSE: CRE) executive Thad Ellis left that company when it exited the Atlanta market and took over Bryant’s role at Advantis.
Bob Voyles, who was senior vice president of Hines Interests L.P., left the company after 16 years to start his own company Seven Oaks Co.
John Whitaker left a senior executive post at Trammell Crow Co. (NYSE: TCC) in Atlanta and joined American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) to spearhead the Atlantic Station development.
Bob Stoner, who was with The Rubenstein Co. before it exited the Atlanta market, recently joined Florida-based Capital Partners Inc. as the company’s Atlanta point man.
Hal Breedlove, the former senior vice president of investment sales at Trammell Crow, retired earlier this year after 13 years with the company.
For many of these executives, the need to be entrepreneurial again versus strapped to a big company may have been a catalyst to leave, Voyles said.

“I think there are good opportunities for people who are willing to take entrepreneurial risks, and that’s kind of where I was at this point in my career,” he said.

Bryant agreed and said that for some, corporate America may have been too stifling.

“A lot of us, I think, had some experience with corporate America, and there’s a certain aspect to us with entrepreneurial bends [with] corporate America that’s negative,” Bryant said.

Harvesting opportunities

For Pope & Land, new development has taken a back-burner this year in favor of sales. So far this year the company sold $350 million in office buildings and $100 million in land, Kelly said. The company also has purchased opportunity buys as well this year.

“We are harvesting some appreciation in properties that have achieved their value,” he said. But Kelly cautioned that it didn’t mean Pope & Land’s business model had shifted away from development.

“I don’t see it as a shift in either one of our directions,” Kelly said. “It’s not because [Little] wants to do ‘A’ kind of deals and we want to do ‘B’ kind of deals. I don’t think there’s a different view on any kind of real estate on what Pope & Land wants to do and what Greenstone wants to do.”

And Voyles said he was confident Little will be successful in Greenstone.

“I do know that De is … a very smart real estate guy. He’s worked very hard at cultivating relationships over the years. Those are two of the key ingredients to making someone successful,” Voyles said. “I would say that he and Larry [Kelly] were about as aggressive as anyone was during the last cycle. If you look at what he and Larry Kelly did at Pope & Land, they were well into the second quarter of their game when we all were just coming out on the field.”