By Christine Perez
In the April edition of 1-on-1, Valuation & Advisory chief Sid Womack talks with Capital Markets guru Maureen Kelly Cooper. Both transferred to the Dallas office of Cushman & Wakefield from other markets. They weigh in on career paths, their areas of expertise, challenges they’ve overcome, and why they’re excited about the future.
Senior Managing Director Sid Womack leads Valuation & Advisory operations in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. He joined the Dallas office in March 2017 from Kansas City, where he oversaw V&A activity in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. He’s a designated member of the Appraisal Institute, a fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and a certified general real estate appraiser in 10 states. Womack, who has 30 years of appraisal experience, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising from The University of Texas.
Executive Director Maureen Kelly Cooper brings more than 25 years of experience to her role on C&W’s Corporate Capital Markets team. She uses structured financial products to help major national and international corporations maximize value in sale-leasebacks, lease restructurings, build-to-suits, public-private partnerships, and other complex real estate transactions. Cooper was based in C&W’s Manhattan office from 2006 to 2013, when she transferred to Dallas. She earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting from the University of Arkansas, and a MBA from Southern Methodist University.
MAUREEN KELLY COOPER: Well, Sid, I Googled you in advance of this interview, and I didn’t find much.
SID WOMACK: I’m the least interesting man in the world.
COOPER: Oh, I don’t know about that. I think you just keep a low profile.
WOMACK: I’m not very good about social media and things like that. So, let’s do this the old-fashioned way. Tell me where you’re from.
COOPER: I was born in New Jersey, but I grew up in Richardson. My dad was transferred here, through his job, when I was six years old. I moved away from Dallas several times, but have always come back.
WOMACK: You were in New York for, what, 10 years?
COOPER: Seven years. And before that I went to college in Arkansas.
WOMACK: Saw that on your bio. Go, Razorbacks.
COOPER: That’s right. Go, Razorbacks. This was back before Arkansas was popular. Today it seems like a lot of Dallas kids go to Arkansas.
WOMACK: Where did you go after college?
COOPER: I came back to Dallas for a few years, and then I went to London for two years.
WOMACK: Where in London?
COOPER: I lived in Earl’s Court, where all the Australians live. I worked for UBS, for a real estate fund. I was 25 and single and figured it was a good time to experience living overseas. I went over and backpacked through Europe first for three months, and then began my job in London. I have dual citizenship, so I was able to work over there, no problem.
WOMACK: How did you get the dual citizenship?
COOPER: It was easy for me, because my parents are Irish.
WOMACK: Tell me more about the backpacking trip.
COOPER: I went with my cousin. She had just graduated from college. I had already been working for three or four years, but decided to join her. We stayed in hostels and traveled all throughout Europe. It was a lot of fun. … So, tell me about you. I believe you grew up in Houston?
WOMACK: I was born in Virginia, but my family moved to Houston when I was five years old, and I grew up there. I went on to spend some time in California, then spent 14 years or so in Kansas City.
COOPER: What took you to California?
WOMACK: The appraisal industry had gone flat here in Texas in the early 1990s. Real estate had pretty much petered out, and people in California didn’t know what negative market conditions were. So, a bunch of Texas appraisers went out to show them how to handle negative time adjustments.
COOPER: How long were you there?
WOMACK: Four years. Our twin boys were born there. We had dirt shipped out in a shoebox from Texas, though, and when they came home from the hospital, we put their feet in Texas soil, first. That was important to my wife and me.
COOPER: [laughs] What part of California were you in?
WOMACK: I lived in Santa Ana and worked in Newport Beach. It was phenomenal.
COOPER: It’s gorgeous out there. Why did you leave?
WOMACK: My brother had leukemia, so it was time to come home to Texas. We lived in Austin for a while, then moved to Kansas City after I was hired to run a CMBS group for Key Bank. I did that for three years, but began to see signs of trouble in the market. I didn’t think it was sustainable, so I made a switch to Cushman & Wakefield to run the Valuation & Advisory group in Kansas City.
COOPER: You went to UT, right?
WOMACK: Yes. I went to The University of Texas.
COOPER: Is that where you met your wife?
WOMACK: I did. Her name is Susie. She’s my best half, the love of my life. We’ve been married 30 years and have three kids. They’re all out of the house now, so we’re empty-nesters. … And you went to Arkansas and then grad school at SMU?
COOPER: Yes. I joined The Staubach Co. after graduating.
WOMACK: Any brushes with greatness? Ever meet the man?
COOPER: Oh, yes. I enjoyed working with Roger. He’s a good man.
WOMACK: I grew up idolizing the Dallas Cowboys—especially Roger.
COOPER: I worked for him for seven years—eight, if you include the internship. That’s where I started working on the capital markets side of the business, versus straight accounting.
WOMACK: I was going to ask about that. You’re a CPA, right?
COOPER: Yes. I began my career in accounting, after getting my bachelor’s degree, in the multifamily group at Trammell Crow Co. I liked the analytical side of it, but I noticed that people on the revenue-production side of the business were always very happy. I was also at an age where dealing with the late hours and all that detail work of accounting was not very appealing. So, I went back to business school and focused on finance, and that led to what I’m doing now, representing companies and looking at the financial impact of their real estate transactions, underwriting their credit, and seeing how we can leverage that in negotiations. … How did you get into the appraisal business?
WOMACK: I came out of UT and grabbed the first job I could, which was with Lincoln Property Co. I was a research analyst, working on site acquisitions and then the construction side, developing apartment complexes in the mid-1980s. Then, a buddy of mine who I was living with came home one night and was sketching out the floorplan of a house. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he had gone out and measured the house and was doing an appraisal and getting paid $100 for it. That sounded great to me, so I left my job at Lincoln and began working for a residential appraisal company and switched over to the commercial side within a year.
COOPER: I understand you’ve appraised some rather unique properties over the course of your career. A bowling alley, a daycare center, an ethanol plant?
WOMACK: The ethanol plant was interesting. What I’ve really concentrated on is grain. I’ve appraised some of the largest grain facilities in the United States, places where they process millions and millions of bushels of product … rice and corn in Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa, places like that. It’s a unique asset, and not a lot of people know how to appraise them.
COOPER: Is that still an area of specialty?
WOMACK: I’ve done two or three since I moved to Dallas, but I don’t do much appraisal work anymore. I’m focused on managing the team.
COOPER: From my in-depth research of you, I’ve also learned you like desserts.
WOMACK: I do. I am a dessert-aholic. Ask any of my clients who have gone to dinner with me. It’s the most important part of the meal.
COOPER: What’s your favorite?
WOMACK: It doesn’t matter. I’ll typically go for chocolate or cheesecake. And I don’t do that healthy fruit stuff. It has to be full-bodied and full-calories. I always wait until the end of the meal, though. I’m a good boy. … One of the things I learned about you is that you’re involved with the Irish Network. What’s that all about?
COOPER: I was a member of the Irish Network when I lived in Manhattan, and we recently started a chapter in Dallas. It’s a network group to connect Irish and Irish American professionals in the DFW market. We have happy hours, speaker events, support charities and sports. It’s really for anyone who has an interest in Ireland.
WOMACK: Well, with a name like Maureen Kelly …
COOPER: [laughs] Right. I’m very proud that both of my parents are from Ireland. They moved separately to New York City, where they met and got married. They live in Plano now.
WOMACK: Do they still speak with an Irish accent?
WOMACK: An Irish accent with a Texas drawl?
COOPER: [laughs] Exactly. … So, Sid, what do you like to do for fun?
WOMACK: I’m not very interesting. I’ve always liked to run, especially in the middle of the day at the peak of heat. I’m old now, so that has diminished greatly. I mainly run on the weekends, and try to get in at least six miles a week. I don’t do marathons or run races; I just do it to stay in shape.
COOPER: Burn off the desserts.
COOPER: What do you and your wife like to do together, now that your kids are grown and out of the house?
WOMACK: We just really enjoy spending time together, hanging out. We really don’t need to be doing anything special, as long as we’re around each other.
COOPER: I just got married about 18 months ago. I really like hanging out with my husband, and hope that will be the case 30 years from now, too! [laughs]
WOMACK: How did you meet your husband?
COOPER: We met the old-fashioned way.
COOPER: [laughs] Yes. Match.com.
WOMACK: I love it.
COOPER: We met about five years ago, and got married in Carmel, California. It took me a while to find him, but he’s the one.
WOMACK: Any dogs?
COOPER: Yes. Alan came with two dogs, Steve McQueen and Lucy, both rescues.
WOMACK: Do you call him Steve McQueen or do you shorten it?
COOPER: We call him Steve, most of the time. He got his name because he was an escape artist when he was young. You know, from the movie, “The Great Escape.” My cousin’s kids call him Steve the Queen. Lucy is about 14 or 15 years old now.
WOMACK: She really is a grey hound.
COOPER: [laughs] They’re both very calm and very sweet. We don’t have kids, so they’re our babies. … What about you and your wife? Do you have any dogs?
WOMACK: We have a 118-pound Rhodesian and a six-pound, long-haired Chihuahua. They’re great and they keep us busy. It does keep traveling to a minimum, though, when you have to board them all the time. My wife and I do like to travel a lot. That’s one thing we enjoy doing together.
COOPER: My husband and I like to travel, too.
WOMACK: Another thing I saw on your bio is the Young Survivors Coalition. What’s that?
COOPER: It’s a nonprofit organization for women under 40 who have or have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed when I was 32, and got involved with the group when I was in New York. Most women who have breast cancer are in their 50s or older. When you’re diagnosed in your 30s and have no family history of the disease, it’s a real shock to the system.
WOMACK: How are you doing now?
COOPER: I’m doing great. In fact, it was 16 years ago today that I was declared cancer-free.
WOMACK: That’s terrific.
COOPER: It’s a good feeling, because it was very scary at the time. I didn’t know if I was going to make it to my 35th birthday.
WOMACK: I mentioned that my brother had leukemia. Today, he’s got my sister’s blood running through him. We all call him a woman.
WOMACK: But it’s amazing. Something like that affects the whole family.
COOPER: It does. It affected my parents, because I was single at the time. They were wonderful and my friends were wonderful. I was fortunate to have had so much support.
WOMACK: How did the experience change you?
COOPER: I was in denial at first. Even after something came up on the sonogram, I was certain the biopsy would show it was benign, but it didn’t. Finding out that you have cancer is upsetting, no matter how old you are. And it was aggressive. It was stage two and had spread to my lymph nodes, so it was serious. I went through the whole shebang—surgery, chemo, and radiation. It took a couple of years. It was after that when I moved to New York and started at Cushman, kind of a fresh start, after what I had gone through. An experience like that can cause you to lose your self-confidence. Who you are is completely changed. Physically you change, because of the harsh drugs you’re taking. I lost my hair. And emotionally you’re changed, too.
WOMACK: What brought you back to Dallas?
COOPER: After living for seven years in Manhattan …
WOMACK: You came to your senses.
COOPER: [laughs] I do love it, but it’s not a normal lifestyle. Also, my parents were getting older, and I wanted to be closer to them in Plano. Thankfully, Cushman & Wakefield agreed to a transfer, as my group was based in New York.
WOMACK: I’ve found Cushman has been very good about that. I have several appraisers who have transferred from St. Louis to Phoenix and other places. The firm has always been very accommodating.
COOPER: I’m very appreciative. Cushman & Wakefield gave me the opportunity to move back and helped figure out how to make it work. I’ve been back in the great state of Texas for five years now and met my husband here. Life is good.
WOMACK: Since you’ve been back you’ve worked with a number of very large companies. What are some of your most significant deals or assignments?
COOPER: One we just wrapped up is Brinker International. It was my first big deal with a brokerage team in Dallas. One of the questions I had when I moved back would I be able to have an impact. I had been with Cushman & Wakefield for seven years, but no one knew me in the Dallas office. So, when we were able to win that transaction several years ago, it was great.
WOMACK: Everyone has been very welcoming to me, too. And I’ve overwhelmed by the talent here. It’s crazy.
COOPER: It’s great to work with people who are so good at what they do. What led you to leave Kansas City and come to Dallas?
WOMACK: Providence. My folks were getting older, like you, and I wanted to be closer to them. This opportunity came up at just the right time. My mom just passed away a few months ago. I’m grateful I was able to spend so much of her last year with her. So, it was a good decision from that standpoint. And, I’m a Texan. Don’t get me wrong; Kansas City is one of the best places I ever lived and a great place to raise a family. But Dallas is a bigger market for me, and I’m very happy here.
COOPER: Where are the kids now? Are they close by?
WOMACK: They’re not. My daughter is in the state of Washington. One of my sons is in England. He just graduated from the University of Leeds with his master’s degree in medieval history. The other is in Tulsa. He’s applying for master’s programs in Scotland and at Notre Dame. They’re both total history geeks or, as I call them, the anti-Sids.
COOPER: No one is going to follow you into the appraisal business?
WOMACK: Oh, no. All of my kids are very creative, they are not me. It’s comical.
COOPER: What is your daughter doing?
WOMACK: She’s kind of like a hippie with a real solid foundation of reality. She spent a year in England with a backpack, by herself, then came back here and headed west. She has a degree from The University of Texas and is a film buff and always liked the heroines of the Old West. She wanted to be brave, like them.
COOPER: Did all of your kids get their undergrads at UT?
WOMACK: My sons went to Tulsa University. My daughter went to UT. We are fourth-generation Longhorns. My grandfather was the athletic director at The University of Texas. His bust is on the stadium wall. My dad was recently inducted into the Hall of Honor; he was a running back for UT in the 1950s. My brothers went there, I went there, my wife went there, and then my daughter followed as the fourth generation.
COOPER: How many siblings do you have?
WOMACK: I have two brothers and two sisters. I’m one of five. … What about you?
COOPER: I have a brother who lives in Denver. He has two kids, so I have a niece and nephew. … So, now that you’ve been at Cushman & Wakefield for about a year, what do you hope the firm is known for out in the market?
WOMACK: Integrity. Ran (Holman, Managing Director) always puts an emphasis on having the best team and hiring the best people, and I’m on board with that strategy. I think who you hire and the integrity of people and the ethics they have is how you win and keep business. Always trying to do the right thing is the key to success. In Valuation & Advisory, it’s vital. We have to make hard calls all the time, when people are pushing us on numbers. We have to be strong enough to say we’re not comfortable with that.
COOPER: I would concur with everything you said. Things are going well. The Dallas market is very dynamic, as far as the strength of the economy, at least for the next year or two. I’m looking forward to teaming up with more of my colleagues here in the Dallas office. And, I’ve just hired an analyst, Michael Thomas. So, it feels like we’re building a team, a specialty group.
WOMACK: We’re both relatively new, so it’s a little more difficult not knowing everyone on all of the teams. I’m this new guy up in the corner on the 10th floor in V&A. I see familiar faces but I don’t yet know everyone’s names. This year, I’m looking forward to building more long-lasting relationships and becoming more involved. We love it when we can help the brokers. Sometimes we may have a key piece of information they don’t have.
COOPER: That’s one of the great things about Cushman & Wakefield—having all of the different service lines.
WOMACK: Exactly. And it works best when we’re all taking advantage of it.