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At JLW, the greatest opportunities are still ahead

The United States continues to be a land of considerable opportunities as Jones Lang Wootton looks ahead.

Just over 20 years ago, Jones Lang Wootton brought its unique business style to the United States. Since that time, the company has built a strong reputation of success here. And it's not finished yet.

We've been in the United States just over 20 years, primarily in the transactional area and investment channels. We've made a nationwide and international reputation doing what we do here," says Michael Dow, chairman of Jones Lang Wootton USA, the New York-based part of Jones Lang Wootton specializing in investment and corporate real estate services.

Dow came to the United States with Jones Lang Wootton around April or May of 1994. He's been with JLW for nearly 26 years, based in London for all but the three and a half years he's been in the United States.

Founded in 1783, JLW is one of the oldest and largest real estate organizations in the world. With more than 4,000 real estate professionals, the company has 70 offices in 30 countries. It covers the full spectrum of services including valuation, consulting, research, sales and financing.

In 1981, John Krush, managing director in charge of the project management group, joined JLW. He calls those days the "pioneering days" of Jones Lang Wootton in the United States. "The firm really started to gain momentum in the late-'70s, and between 1980 and 1982 we went from probably a company of about a dozen or so up to about 40. And we were ushering in a substantial amount of European capital into the property markets and doing all the sundry services such as leasing, property management, project management."

In 1996, Jones Lang Wootton USA completed eight office transactions totaling $795 million and eight hotel transactions totaling $498 million. and its project management team completed $275 million in renovations and construction projects last year involving more than 7 million sq. ft. of office and retail space.

"Typically, you'll find JLW has one to two of the top 10 deals done in New York in any particular year," says Mark Ravesloot, senior director of leasing.

And it's the company's full-service capabilities that set it apart from the competition, says Ravesloot. "I think whereas most companies here in the United States -- the recognizable names in the United States -- are truly 95% leasing companies and they might have one or two people doing those other services," says Ravesloot. "We're truly full service, and each one of those businesses is a major business in its own right."

"I think it's very important to know that, unlike most U.S. leasing companies, none of the people at JLW are independent contractors," Ravesloot says. "Everybody's an employee of the company. And I think that says something about us structurally, but it also says something about the philosophy of the company -- that we truly want to be working as teams."

Dow says that the company's ownership and structure is one thing that makes JLW unique. "Jones Lang Wootton is an independent organization. Most of it these days is a limited-liability company, but it is owned by what we used to refer to as the partners, now the directors of the company. But we have not taken in outside money to date, and we are not part of a franchise or a network of any sort. All our offices around the world are owned by Jones Lang Wootton," Dow says.

Krush attributes some of the company's uniqueness to its British ancestry. "Our roots come out of the British property business. Our style is now an American style of doing business, but our ethics, our standards -- I think Jones Lang Wootton probably has the highest standards in terms of satisfying our clients, dedicating our resources and really standing behind our work in a highly ethical manner. And I think our clients respect us for that," he says.

Maybe it's the company's yin and yang business style -- mixing old-fashioned values with modern-day dominance -- that has allowed it to have such success. It seems the company's easily able to jump back and forth between smaller and larger deals, fluctuating between providing individual attention and worldwide range to its clients.

Take Great Western Bank. Dow says what his company was able to do with Great Western Bank is a significant example of JLW's capabilities. Great Western had come from an unprofitable background, says Dow, "where it had diversified into services which didn't turn out to be profitable." Dow says JLW got Great Western's new management to organize the real estate side of its business. "And we were very instrumental in ensuring the savings and the cost benefits. So the company was much more valuable as a result of our activity," says Dow.

"We add a lot of value in difficult circumstances for our clients to get them out of the mess that they're in," Dow says. "But I don't want to imply that that's all that we do."

"To take a completely different tack, we also do -- and I think we're very good at -- very large hotel sales," says Dow. "We've sold the Plaza, the Four Seasons in New York, the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles, the Chelsea in Toronto and a number of other trophy hotels around the country. And that's interesting too."

Currently, the company's expansion plans are focusing on growing the JLW presence in the United States even further.

"We've grown tremendously over the years, so it's been very exciting to be with the company over that growth period. And especially looking toward the future, I think the growth rate will even accelerate from here, because the company overall has made a strong commitment to grow the business here in the United States because it's really our largest area of opportunity worldwide," says Ravesloot.

In most of the areas of our business, we are the market leader in Europe and Asia Pacific," says Dow. "And whilst we're important and significant here, we want to become the market leader in the United States. Now that doesn't necessarily mean that we want to become absolutely gigantic in terms of numbers, because we see ourselves as being the high-end service provider, and we would like to have maybe one or two more significant multi-service offices in the United States, but we don't want to be in every city throughout the country."

"The United States is much more splintered. Even here in New York, nobody controls more than 15% of the marketplace," Ravesloot says. "And that means that as there are so many more players in that marketplace, and it's so much more splintered, our vision of the future is that it will become much more consolidated than it is right now, and you'll have select few larger players within these marketplaces. And JLW has truly a vision that they want to be the premiere player here in this country as well as globally."

The company knows that it definitely has its work cut out for it. "And it's a challenge because we're not doing it like some of our competitors which are doing it through alliances. We're doing it with Jones Lang Wootton folks. And you're dealing with different cultures and different philosophies and different financial structures," Krush says. "And we're probably light years ahead of our competition in terms of bringing that all together."

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