A Dark Horse Will Lead Jones Lang LaSalle

Jones Lang LaSalle's new CEO brings 26 years of corporate experience to the global brokerage giant — all of it acquired outside the real estate industry. Colin Dyer, 51, officially becomes CEO this month, working primarily from Jones Lang LaSalle's Chicago office.

For the past four years, the British-born Dyer — who is fluent in English, Dutch and French — worked as CEO of Worldwide Retail Exchange, an Internet-based business-to-business company. He worked at consulting firm McKinsey & Co. from 1978 through 1982, the year that he joined a British textiles company.

The Jones Lang LaSalle Board of Directors spent six months searching for the ideal candidate. Surprisingly, the one place it didn't look was within the real estate industry. Sheila Penrose, a member of the Jones Lang LaSalle Board of Directors and chair of the CEO search committee, says Dyer's dedication to client service proved to be a key factor in his selection.

“We chose Colin for his leadership abilities, financial and strategic skills, his international focus and his public company experience,” says Penrose. Jones Lang LaSalle generates 60% of its nearly $1 billion in annual revenues from outside the U.S. “Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a dedication to client service, beginning at McKinsey, which is known for its client-service ethic.”

Penrose says Dyer will collaborate with the company's many far-flung divisions, but she also makes it clear that the search committee sought a person who would “respect the culture” of the firm. “He will complement the strengths that we have in the firm already,” emphasizes Penrose.

The president and CEO of competing firm Cushman & Wakefield praised the unconventional selection. “I think it's a very good and creative choice for them [JLL]. I think our industry has become very insular,” says Arthur Mirante. “To the extent that you can bring in people from different industries, you just improve your company's capabilities.”

Still, one Manhattan-based corporate recruiter was less enthusiastic about the Dyer appointment. “It's crazy. They believe that skill sets are transferable between industries, but it will take him at least one year just to learn this business. And the real estate services business is so incredibly competitive today,” says the recruiter, who asked to remain anonymous.

Moreover, Jones Lang LaSalle intentionally overlooked top brokers from rival firms. “They just didn't want someone to come in and really change the culture of the firm. If they had hired a star like Steve Siegel or Mary Ann Tighe [of CB Richard Ellis], that superstar would change things around when everything is already going well,” says the source.

Dyer is taking the reins of a financially stable firm. Shares of Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE: JLL) have risen almost 70% over the past 12 months. The stock was trading around $30 per share on Aug. 16. Jones Lang LaSalle posted $36.1 million in net income and $949.8 million in revenues in 2003. The financials compare favorably with net income of $27.1 million and $840.4 million in revenues in 2002.

Dyer may be new to real estate, but his management team certainly isn't. “The market has responded very favorably to his selection after what was a very long search process, and Dyer has a deep bench of experienced division chiefs to draw from,” says Arthur Oduma, an equity analyst at Morningstar. “All the division chiefs have held senior positions with the company or its predecessors for 10 to 20-plus years.”

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