By Christine Perez
In this edition of 1-on-1, industrial services expert Nathan Orbin sits down for a wide-ranging conversation with equity, debt, and structured finance pro Jason Pumpelly. Read their interview to find out about their career paths and why they’re excited about 2018. Plus, find out which of the two once got a hole-in-one, which one specializes in sous vide cooking, and which one was photographed in a Speedo for The Dallas Morning News.
As Executive Managing Director, Nathan Orbin co-leads Cushman & Wakefield’s industrial services group in Dallas-Fort Worth. A market expert with more than 15 years of experience, he has closed more than 25 million square feet in industrial leases and more than 4,000 acres in land sales. Orbin has expertise in landlord and tenant representation, development, and the acquisition and disposition of land and facility assets. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
Managing Director Jason Pumpelly oversees the Equity, Debt, and Structured Finance group for Cushman & Wakefield in Dallas. The team arranges equity and debt financing for a variety of commercial real estate clients and property types, including office, industrial, retail, multifamily, student housing, hotels, self-storage, and senior housing. Pumpelly holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from Texas Tech University and a MBA from The University of Texas at Dallas.
NATHAN ORBIN: So, Jason, I did some due diligence in advance of this interview. And when I Googled you, the first thing that came up was a photo of you in a Speedo. Would you like to explain yourself?
JASON PUMPELLY: I thought you would ask me what career I would choose if I hadn’t gotten into commercial real estate, and I was going to say swimsuit model. It stems from my desire to run around in a Speedo.
ORBIN: I think you should keep the day job.
PUMPELLY: I’m not sure who told you about that photo.
ORBIN: It was an article in The Dallas Morning News about energy bars. It was the first thing that came up when I Googled you.
PUMPELLY: Seriously? Well, unfortunately, it was before the long jammer shorts came into vogue. I was wearing a Speedo, and that’s it. A photographer from the newspaper was covering the Tom Landry Triathlon, and he took a photo of me. It was a long time ago.
ORBIN: It was 2012. And it will live on the internet forever. Just like this interview.
PUMPELLY: Great. I’m a retired triathlete now, but I’ve run countless races.
ORBIN: I don’t have any triathlon stories.
PUMPELLY: Do you have any Speedo stories?
ORBIN: [laughs] Let’s change subjects before everything completely goes off the rails. Tell me about your family.
PUMPELLY: My wife and I have two daughters. They’re 14 and 12. They play soccer and sing and do all the things kids do. The oldest one is a freshman at Bishop Lynch High School and the younger one is at Highlander School in Lake Highlands. My wife is an artist. She is a painter and sells contemporary art through a number of different channels around the country.
ORBIN: How neat is that?
PUMPELLY: It’s pretty cool. She is the talented adult in the family. … How about you?
ORBIN: My wife and I have a 6-year-old boy and a 3-year-old daughter. Our son goes to St. Rita’s. My wife and I have been married nearly 13 years. We started dating as freshmen in college at The University of Texas, and have been together for more than 18 years.
PUMPELLY: That’s pretty close to my wife and me. We’ve been married 18 years and together for about 20. … So, any more children in your future?
ORBIN: No. We’ve got one and one, and we’re going to play man defense. I think we’re in a good spot.
PUMPELLY: Did you grow up in Texas?
ORBIN: Yes. I was born and raised in San Antonio. Went to school in Austin at UT, and continued moving up Interstate 35 to Dallas. But this will be the last stop. My wife’s family is from Dallas and after college, she won the coin flip. I think it was rigged, but it has worked out very well. … What about you?
PUMPELLY: I was born in Salt Lake City. My dad was with Westinghouse at the time, working on a missile defense project for the Defense Department. Not long after I was born, he went to work for a different company in Houston, which is where I grew up. My brother and sister are Aggies. I went the Red Raider route, to Lubbock for my undergrad. And then I got my MBA at UTD in Richardson. It has become a more-recognized university now, and it’s exciting to have a thriving UT program and campus up here in Dallas.
ORBIN: Did you always want to get into commercial real estate?
PUMPELLY: Other than being a swimsuit model? Yes. But when I got out of college in 1986, the market was in a downturn. A lot of my friends from college who went through the real estate program or studied finance ended up working for the RTC. I didn’t want to do that, so I did some banking and sales for a couple of years. My first job in real estate was with Fischer. It was a great place to learn the business.
ORBIN: Smiling and dialing.
PUMPELLY: Exactly. Nick Rossini, who’s now in our GOS group here at C&W, was at Fischer, too. While there, I went to grad school then got into the finance side at HFF, which was a remarkable opportunity. I then made the leap into the development business and helped build industrial space in South Dallas and Cleveland. When the money dried up, I started an office for Johnson Capital. I ran that until 2014, when it was sold to Walker & Dunlop. My teammates, Justin Shuart and Brian Park, and I had a number of options, in terms of what we wanted to do and where we wanted to be. We did our due diligence and saw a void we thought we could fill at Cushman & Wakefield. The firm was strong in so many areas, but had not had anyone on the finance side for quite a while. In August 2015, the day before the merger with DTZ, we joined C&W.
ORBIN: The day before the merger?
PUMPELLY: Yes. I don’t know about you, but I think the transition has been pretty easy. There were a ton of quality people on both sides. I don’t think you could have—at least in our market—a better blending of personalities and culture and talent. The service lines matched up very well; everything just got stronger.
ORBIN: It’s remarkable to see the collaboration and the culture merge when you have such big entities coming together and new people joining, too. It has been neat to be part of it.
PUMPELLY: So how did you get into the real estate business?
ORBIN: I also started on the tenant rep side, at Jackson Cooksey. It was a great foundation and a great way to learn the business and figure out what you wanted to do. Everything on our side of the business is driven by tenants. Whether it’s leasing or developing or investing, it’s all driven by users.
PUMPELLY: Agreed. You learn markets, property types, and what tenants are doing. What led you to initially choose the industry?
ORBIN: My path into commercial real estate was not a direct one. My dad is a concert producer and started his own company 40 years ago. I was raised around the music business and had a pretty cool upbringing, traveling with my dad as he put on shows for performers such as U2, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Michael Jackson, and many others. My dad is an amazing role model for me, not just because of his entrepreneurial success, but in how he has managed to have a great career and be an incredible father of five kids.
PUMPELLY: Very cool. Is he still working?
ORBIN: He is consulting and doing limited shows for bands he is still friends with. But I decided to not follow in my dad’s footsteps. I wanted to work in sports, which is why I focused on Sports Management and Business at UT. My first job out of college was in the sports business, but I quickly gravitated toward commercial real estate. My wife’s family is in real estate, and I saw a lot of similarities. Commercial real estate is truly a team sport. All the elements you need for a successful sports team are the same for a great team in real estate.
PUMPELLY: What did you do after Jackson Cooksey?
ORBIN: I went over to JLL, and was there for nine years. It was a great time. I have a lot of good friends over there and still do a lot of work with those guys. Then back in April of last year, Kurt Griffin and I left JLL to join Cushman & Wakefield.
PUMPELLY: What led you to make the switch?
ORBIN: Well, we weren’t looking. We were very happy with our position at JLL. We had a strong foundation there and a good network with other colleagues across the country. We were winning business and having fun. The missing links we struggled with were not having a strong national capital markets team, and being able to build industrial property management. Those were two of the key factors in coming over here. We’re now very fortunate to partner with a couple of guys you used to work with, Jason, at HFF: Jud Clements and Robby Reike. And Christy Means coming over has been a remarkable boost to our Property Management service line. So, I feel like we have all three legs of the stool now. The foundation is set to serve our clients at the highest level. … So besides triathlons, what do you like to do for fun?
PUMPELLY: I try to get out of the house. I like to cycle and run. I like endurance sports. I think I’m an endorphin junkie. I play a little golf, but I’m not passionate about it. I tend to be a little wound up. So, golf is one of those sports that frustrates me. Instead of relaxing, I tend to get angry when I play. … How about you? What hobbies do you enjoy?
ORBIN: My multiple hobbies have been narrowed down to one: golf. I love everything about it. It’s great to play with friends, with clients, and the rare occurrence when you get to play by yourself is also fun.
PUMPELLY: What’s your most memorable golf moment?
OBRIN: That’s easy. It was a hole-in-one I made last year in San Diego.
PUMPELLY: Were you at Torrey Pines? Where were you playing?
ORBIN: I was playing at San Diego Country Club, a private course that’s almost 100 years old. It was 185 yards, and a great experience.
PUMPELLY: Congratulations. That’s a great bucket-list item.
ORBIN: Do you have any memorable golf moments?
PUMPELLY: I don’t know if I want to share it, but I had recently the opportunity to play at Preston Trail with a client and a couple of other guys. At the tee box, I was a little nervous, and I whiffed it—just completely missed the ball. My client was laughing and I said, “That was a practice swing.” It just reinforces my point about sports being a little less about finesse and more about endurance for me.
ORBIN: Moving from sports to business, what’s the outlook for you and your team for 2018?
PUMPELLY: That’s a very good question. As you know, we arrange financing for investment real estate. And that can be everything from luxury hotels to mobile home parks. It’s like that insurance company commercial: “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” When you finance over the course of 25 years or so, you’ve touched a lot of properties. You learn how to look at many structures from development to refinances. Our team tends to gravitate toward property types that have higher transaction volumes, and that always changes—it’s cyclical. Right now, multifamily and industrial are very active asset classes, so we’re focusing on that, but still work on other property types too. When the cycle turns, we’ll pursue other opportunities.
ORBIN: Makes sense.
PUMPELLY: What’s encouraging about being at Cushman & Wakefield is we have access to all of the different disciplines. So, as we grow our team, we can become more specialized in what we do. We’re a fairly small team right now, so we tend to build off where our relationships are and what’s happening in the market. But to answer your question, I think 2018 will be another good year overall. The world is flush with capital, as evidenced by all of the foreign investors coming to the U.S. to look for opportunities. But with so much capital in the market and a greater sense of discipline when it comes to development and supply, there’s a lot more capital than there are deals. It all helps create a healthy market, though. And going into 2018, I think fundamentals will continue to support those capital flows. … What are you seeing on the industrial side?
ORBIN: Well, last year was a record year for DFW, with almost 26 million square feet of net absorption. It’s the second year in a row that we topped 20 million; 2016 was the first, when we hit 23.5 million square feet. So, I think we’re well positioned. The fundamentals are strong. We now have our foundation and our groundwork set with our team–Kurt and I, Ann Jaggars, Lauren Mareri, along with David Eseke in the GSW submarket—we are looking forward to 2018.
PUMPELLY: You have a great team.
ORBIN: Going back to your point about expertise, that is our mentality and our motto. You have to be a market expert. We don’t sell widgets; we sell service and knowledge. We have partnered with David in the Great Southwest Industrial District. He prides himself on being an expert in that submarket, and I have really been impressed by him and enjoy working with him.
PUMPELLY: So, you’ve been in this business a while. What has been your favorite corporate client boondoggle?
ORBIN: Going to Pebble Beach was a neat deal. Being out in Carmel is a remarkable experience. I was able to have my wife join, which made it that much better. … What about you? Did you go float the Guadalupe?
PUMPELLY: [laughs] Yes. In a Speedo. My wife and I went on a trip to the Virgin Islands and did a regatta in St. Thomas with Prudential. But I think my favorite is when CSFB sponsored a running group of 12 guys to go do 200-mile relays around the country. I believe we did seven races. We did races from Boston to Oregon. During the Napa Relay, I had the thrill of running across the Golden Gate Bridge in the middle of the night, which was cool.
ORBIN: You’re talking about running from coast to coast, and I’m talking about hitting a little white ball and drinking Coors Lite.
PUMPELLY: [laughs] So what’s your favorite food?
ORBIN: I love everything.
PUMPELLY: Do you like to cook?
ORBIN: I love to cook.
PUMPELLY: What’s your specialty?
ORBIN: I’ve gotten into sous vide, a French method of cooking. It’s great with meats and veggies and everything else. Basically, you vacuum-seal the food and cook it in water. It takes longer, but it’s the best way you can make a steak. I’ve done brisket and pulled pork, pork chops—everything. … Do you have a specialty?
PUMPELLY: Burning things. And I’m great with a bowl of cereal.
ORBIN: You don’t like to cook?
PUMPELLY: I like to smoke meats on the smoker, but even that is hit or miss.
ORBIN: About three times a year, a good friend and I will smoke a whole hog. We just did two for New Year’s Eve.
PUMPELLY: Do you have a big smoker?
ORBIN: We have a la caja china. It’s the Cuban way of cooking.
PUMPELLY: And where does that reside? On the patio?
ORBIN: It’s in the shed now, but, yes, it gets brought out to the patio. It’s basically just a big wooden and aluminum box.
PUMPELLY: You’re a worldly man, Nathan. I had no idea.
ORBIN: Especially for an industrial guy, right?
PUMPELLY: [laughs] So, we should probably wrap this up. Let’s end with this: What has you most excited about the future?
ORBIN: What has me most excited is the team we have in place. It has been a great initial eight months. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Everyone has exceeded expectations. I’m really excited about the future and seeing every individual on our team continue to grow and reach new levels. … What about you?
PUMPELLY: I’m encouraged by the young talent getting into the industry, and helping to foster and encourage their growth. We’re in a good market and Dallas is doing great, so that helps people think about getting into commercial real estate as a career. It’s great to work with the guys on our team, and to see them and Eseke and the other guys have fun and build camaraderie. We have a good blend of veterans and young people here at Cushman & Wakefield, and that shows a willingness to invest in the next generation of talent. It makes sense; they’re the future of our business.