Real Estate Journal: Thrust into leadership by tragedy, PEBB execs prepare new strategies
Excerpt from South Florida Business Journal Publication
Ian Weiner always planned to be among the top executives at his family-owned commercial real estate firm PEBB Enterprises. But a tragic event suddenly made him the company’s leader and robbed him of close friends and family members.
“It was a terrible situation,” said Ian Weiner, who was 31 at the time of the crash. “It has been difficult at times and we had challenges, but we are in a very good position now from a staff perspective and the opportunities we see in the marketplace.”
Weiner had been working for the family business since 2011. The plan was for him to eventually become co-president or operating partner. Instead, he was thrust into the president’s position while his father stepped back and wasn’t as actively involved. He was in charge of a company with shopping centers and office buildings in Florida and the Midwest, and hundreds of tenants.
“It wasn’t easy,” Weiner said. “I knew I didn’t know everything and I couldn’t do it all myself.”
Weiner said he worked with an executive coach and joined the Young President’s Organization. He worked closely with PEBB Director of Investments Rob Truett, who has been with the company for three years. In 2016, Eric Hochman joined PEBB as director of development to lend his experience from Kimco Realty Corp.
PEBB now has 20 employees, more than before the crash. It’s also been an active year for deals. Its $29 million purchase of a mixed-use center in Memphis, Tennessee was the company’s largest ever acquisition, Truett said.
“I have seen Ian’s leadership grow over the years and his confidence,” Truett said. “The first year we focused on stabilizing the existing portfolio and building the team. This will be the most active year we’ve had in quite some time. It will be Ian’s direction.”
PEBB owns and manages 1.8 million square feet of real estate. It currently has $75 million in assets in Ohio, Iowa, Missouri and Pennsylvania on the market because they are stabilized properties, Weiner said.
Over the past decade, PEBB has been more of a seller than a buyer close to home in South Florida.
But that’s about to change.
“Our focus for the next three to five years is coming back to South Florida,” Weiner said.
PEBB is seeking to buy commercial properties in South Florida, where it already has a portfolio totaling 450,000 square feet. The main strategy is to find real estate that’s under-utilized and turn it around with renovations and new tenants, Weiner said.
In addition to its traditional areas of expertise in retail and office, PEBB is interested in medical office space and hotels. In some cases, it might take a struggling shopping center and reinvent it for health care tenants, or pursue a hotel development.
Truett said PEBB reaches out to companies that are expanding and seeks to show them there are more options beyond vacant spaces. Since it’s so familiar with South Florida, the company can picture how a property could be redeveloped to suit a client’s needs, he said.
“We will introduce some opportunity at a site they might have driven by 15 times and didn’t think it would work,” Truett said.
One important thing that Weiner learned is the effort it takes to keep clients happy. It’s not enough to call them or email them a listing of available spaces. If you fly to their headquarters and meet with them and put in the work to help them reach their goals, the companies will come back for more real estate deals, Weiner said.