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LaSalle Partners positions itself for the future

This Chicago-based real estate service firm prepares for the new millennium through acquisitions and public offerings.

We're looking toward the future... We want to be the company for the 21st Century." That's what they all say, right? Right. But can they all say that they've been planning it since 1968? Probably not.

Since the beginning, Chicago-based LaSalle Partners Inc. set out to create a fully integrated, global real estate services firm. It started off providing primarily investment banking, investment management and land services but, by 1975, it had added development management services and, by 1978, it had also grown to include tenant representation and property management and leasing services. And in 1990, LaSalle started a facility management business.

However, the company has not only grown in the number of services it offers, but in its size and reach as well. Today, LaSalle Partners has 10 U.S. corporate offices, seven international offices and more than 400 property offices in North America. The company now has three principal business groups that deal with all property types, including Management Services, Corporate and Financial Services and Investment Management.

"We saw that there was a lot of synergy between those three lines of business and that each would benefit from the other, so we've been building all three of those together for a long time now," says Stuart L. Scott, chairman and CEO of LaSalle Partners Inc.

To break it down further, LaSalle's management services, which generated revenue of $72 million in 1996, includes property management and leasing, facility management, development management and healthcare real estate services. The corporate and financial services, which generated $46.7 million in 1996, provide tenant representation, investment banking and land services. Finally, the investment management group, which is known as LaSalle Advisors, has $15 billion of assets under management and provides private investments and securities investments.

But even with all of these services, Scott still feels that there are products and markets that need to be added to the company roster in order to be called the single-source global service provider it set out to be in 1968. "There is no company that is both fully integrated and is fully global now," Scott says. "That is the company that we are trying to build. We think we have a head start because we are already fully integrated and we are already multinational."

And though LaSalle does have a head start on creating the service firm of the 21st century, it is no longer the only firm to have this as a goal. Now, LaSalle's competitors are catching on to the benefits this type of firm can provide so LaSalle has sped up the process, says Scott. This, in part, was the reasoning behind the firm going public this year.

"Having come so far in building this real estate firm of the future, we didn't want to suffer any competitive disadvantage because we were a private company and others had a liquid currency to do acquisitions with," Scott says.

The IPO also sped up other processes as well for LaSalle such as co-investing. "We have been co-investing with some of our clients for the last five years, but our access to additional capital through the IPO will allow us to launch additional products where we will be able to co-invest with our clients and align interest with our clients as we move forward," says Lynn Thurber, co-president of LaSalle Advisors.

Besides going public, LaSalle merged with The Galbreath Co. earlier this year, also furthering its objectives.

"Everybody in this business knows they're constrained by their people, and for us to pick up close to 200 solid professionals was just a godsend," says Charles K. Esler Jr., CEO of LaSalle Partners Management Services. "In addition, it helped us expand our presence in several markets: San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., Florida and Denver, in particular. In addition, it allowed us to get a presence in new markets," including Philadelphia and Cleveland, he adds.

And by having more markets and more staff, the management services group can help other parts of the company by providing more market information. This information is very important to such units as the investment management group.

"We have the ability to tap into the resources of our affiliates who are on the ground in 60 markets throughout the United States and understand exactly what is happening in those markets on an extremely current basis because people in property management and leasing live and work in those markets every day," says Thurber.

But of course, general trends in today's market can not be left out of the equation when a company is striving for some long-standing goal. Some of the recent trends however have also lent themselves to further growing the firm.

"Investment banking has transaction volume that is unparalleled," says Earl E. Webb, managing director of LaSalle's investment banking unit. "In 1997, we will complete probably 60 to 65 transactions. That's up from 40 in 1996, which was up from about 20 in 1995."

Recently the investment banking unit has become a broker/dealer, and it is currently building its private equity placements business to be a financing source for the next century's real estate firms, says Webb. "Many of those firms are in their growth phase, they're privately owned, they're thirsty for growth capital, and we have a booming business in providing capital or arranging capital for those companies," he adds.

And industry consolidation is yet another trend that has helped LaSalle to reach its goal. "Our desire has been and continues to be a consolidator, to be one of those that will be there," Esler says. "We think we can deliver world-class quality to our clients at the world's lowest price. Consolidation and size has allowed us to do that, and that's what we are going to try and do."

But all of these events could not have helped LaSalle if it hadn't kept its focus on developing long-term relationships throughout the years. And these relationships will further lead LaSalle to its globalization goal. "As we have serviced our clients domestically and they have seen the benefits of a long-term relationship in the field of real estate as they historically have seen in accounting, in law and in investment banking," says M. G. Jerry Rose, president of the tenant rep unit, "they have said, 'This is working so well, why should we not expand this relationship with LaSalle Partners to include all our offices all over the world?'"

The belief of giving the best service to its clients, using teamwork to achieve goals and to continuously work to add what is necessary for better service is the basis of LaSalle Partners, and it is the basis on which future growth will arise.

"The story of our company is the story of a culture that has been built over 29 years," Scott says. "I know this is a corny old saying, but we don't tell the time, we built the clock. We have a culture and a client service machine here that provides superior service to our clients."

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