When he’s not leading the leasing and development of several of the city’s most recognizable new economy buildings, Matthew Ward is out at his children’s sports games cheering them on. As senior managing director at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank and with more than 20 years of experience in commercial real estate, Ward knows the industry well and keeps himself busy with major transactions– such as bringing Google to their newest headquarters.
In the following Q&A with Ward, Illinois Real Estate Journal gets the inside scoop on his advice to newcomers, and his most memorable experiences.
Illinois Real Estate Journal: What is your focus as senior managing director of NGKF?
Matt Ward: My team is focused in downtown Chicago. We’ve been fortunate to complete some of the most complex and interesting deals in the city including Google’s current Chicago HQ, Salesforce, WeWork and numerous other new economy companies. My experience in development enables us to pursue ground-up deals for office, retail and hotel uses. NGKF provides me the best-in-class platform to apply my trade, it’s awesome!
IREJ: How did you get your start in real estate?
Ward: I started cold calling 800 square foot tenants at a tiny shop and leveraged that into an entry-level job at Rubloff. While at Rubloff, I kept my mouth shut and my ears open and was fortunate to learn the business from the best practitioners in the city.
IREJ: Your most memorable experience?
Ward: The first time I was able to sit down with Bill Alter and talk real estate deals was an experience I’ll never forget. He was a smart, tough guy and thankfully he got a kick out of my south side guts and from there we maintained a great relationship and became friends. I miss him to this day. His sons and the leadership team at The Alter Group have done a fine job with his firm. He’d be proud.
IREJ: What’s the reason as to why you’ve remained in the industry?
Ward: As my acumen has grown, I’ve been able to diversify the field of deals I can pursue. Now our team is doing complex land leases, hotels, ground-up office, very cool stuff!
IREJ: What are your hobbies outside of work?
Ward: I enjoy spending time watching my kids play sports and going to new restaurants with my wife. Watching Cubs’ baseball is pretty high on the list also!
IREJ: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
Ward: That’s a tough question. My first answer would be raising good kids. I’m very blessed to watch them grow and mature and pursue their dreams, making good decisions along the way. It’s incredibly heartwarming
IREJ: Any advice to those just entering the industry?
Ward: Work hard and prepare for a steep climb initially. Too many young folks think it’s going to be a snap-snap and they will be successful. Do the things others won’t or can’t. Read and grow your intellect at every opportunity.