In the summer of 1971 George Cibula’s parents had a dinner party attended by his godfather, John Murphy “Murph” who was working for Van C. Argiris & Company at the time. He told Cibula that in the first six months of 1971 he had already made $30,000 (which was a lot of money in 1971). Even without a calculator, Cibula knew that $30,000 for one half of a year equated to $60,000 for a whole year.
“At the time I was selling photocopy machines for my father’s copy machine distributorship,” said Cibula, SIOR, Chairman/CEO of Darwin Realty & Development Corporation. “I asked my father if within five years I would be making $30,000 if I was the best copy machine salesman in Chicago. He said probably not, and that the only person in the company making that kind of money would be him.”
Cibula told his father, “I quit”.
“I spent the rest of the summer cold calling all of the commercial real estate companies in Chicago,” he said. “Cushman & Wakefield wound up hiring me that October specifically because I had learned the art of cold calling from my father.”
The rest, as they say is history, Cibula opened Darwin Realty & Development Corporation in 1975.
“In 1976 (5 years after I quit working for my Father’s business) my Father, George, Sr. came to work with Darwin Realty & Development Corporation as an industrial broker. He had a short, but very successful career. We wound up being partners in 12 to 15 buildings.”
Thirty-five years later, the action and the rewards of working in the industry has kept him in it all this time. “There is no other business that is as interesting as the real estate business,” Cibula said. “Every day we talk about large sums of money and how they are put to work building facilities that produce products and information. Eventually significant amounts of people are employed in these buildings.”
He continued, “The commercial real estate business is central to the economic development of the entire country. In order to be successful you have to know politics, transportation, employment trends and demographic trends. Every single day is interesting.”
With the second half of the year underway, Cibula said Darwin’s seeing with some of the smaller tenants (say 15,000 square feet to 80,000 square feet) that while the actual net rental rates are not increasing, the draconian free rent and concessions are going away.
“We are also seeing landlords being stricter on ancillary charges,” he said. “During the depths of the recession, landlords were having a tough time getting some of their common area maintenance items, like landscaping, snow plowing, management fees back from the tenants, even when the leases called for the tenants to pay for those items. Now, the landlord’s bottom line is improving simply through the collection of roof repair rebills, snow plowing charges, parking area maintenance, etc.”
Recently, Darwin’s partner Noel Liston, recently brokered a 1,100,000 square foot, eight-building investment package from Hamilton Partners, as the seller, to DCT Real Estate Investment Trust.
“Noel and his leasing team were engaged to fill the empty spaces in that portfolio. Noel also brokered the build-to-suit and long-term lease for Weber Stephens’ new 750,000 square foot warehouse in the northwest suburbs. Duke Realty is developing the Weber project and will be Weber’s landlord.”
This Spring Darwin also expanded its relationship with Pactiv Corporation.
“Our private equity group purchased an 115,000 square foot building in Bridgeview and rehabbed it with the help of Peak Construction. We worked with Pactiv and the Village of Bridgeview to obtain a 6B real estate tax incentive to encourage Pactiv to expand in Bridgeview, which resulted in a long term lease of the rehabbed facility.”
Cibula says it was a very complex transaction that required the buyout of an existing lease, contingent tax incentive from the village, and a necessary long-term commitment on Pactiv’s part.
“Pactiv is investing in new machinery and new employees. Closing to occupancy took only 120 days and was aided by the real estate and production people at Pactiv; the Village of Bridgeview; Mike Sullivan and his team at Peak Construction; Larry Marchel, Director of Construction at Darwin Realty; and George Maragos and David Tropp of CBRE.”
“Matthew Lewandowski and Erin Cibula, of Darwin Realty, also aided in the purchase of a FedEx terminal in Aurora, on behalf of our in-house private equity group, he added. “The FedEx facility and Pactiv building were then rolled into a $50,000,000 finance package with twenty-five other properties.”
When Cibula isn’t working, he can be found teasing the people he loves – “My significant other Marilyn, my children, my grandchildren, and any broker in sight.”
Also, when it comes to the time he’s spent in the industry, it’s the friends Cibula has made over the years that he most enjoys.
“People that started out as friendly competitors, and even sometimes unfriendly competitors, eventually become friends. Some become partners. Many stay clients for decades. Now I am becoming friends with children of clients, brokers and bankers, that I met 35 years ago.”
With the school year just beginning for many college students, relax, Cibula has a tip for you.
“The industrial real estate business is the best way for the “C” students of the world to be successful.”