ULI UK: Chairman’s Breakfast with Jerry Speyer, Chairman, CEO and Founding Partner of Tishman Speyer

On 20 November 2013 Andy Martin, incoming Chairman of ULI UK, hosted his inaugural Chairman’s Breakfast with distinguished guest speaker Jerry Speyer, the Chairman, CEO and Founding Partner of real estate giant Tishman Speyer. Reflecting back on a real estate career that has spanned nearly four decades, including 35 years at the helm of one of the world’s most successful real estate organisations, Jerry shared his thoughts around the economy, the real estate markets, where he thinks future opportunities lie, and why he continues to be excited working in an industry that is as diverse and global as the property sector.

Jerry proved to be an inspiration for many in the audience and, under his co-leadership, Tishman Speyer has developed over 123 million sq ft of real estate and has a portfolio worth more than US$65 billion. Yet despite experiencing a number of property cycles in his time, Jerry remains a firm optimist. “You need to have a positive viewpoint, but that doesn’t mean you should close your eyes to the pitfalls of business,” he said. A firm advocate for evolution, Jerry pointed out that “there are always cycles in business, but you have to be aware and open to the fact that change is always possible.”

It is this openness to change and to push boundaries that has stood Jerry in such strong stead throughout his career. Tishman Speyer was one of the first real estate companies to enter China in 1985, and Jerry continues to see the region as one of the key engine rooms for growth.  As questions from the audience started to revolve around future prospects for the industry, Jerry contemplated the impact of technological changes and the extent to which new advances will dictate how both home and office space is used. Although we have already seen huge changes in how people operate, for Jerry this is just the beginning, and he emphasised how important it is for landlords to be willing to engage in and provide for these anticipated changes.

Having established his reputation as an industry pioneer, Jerry took a moment to reflect on the inspirational people who had influenced the course of his career, ranging from business partner Robert Tishman and US real estate veteran Harry Helmsley, to Ronald Reagan and David Rockefeller. The impact of Jerry’s legacy can readily be seen in some of Tishman Speyer’s best known assets, including the Rockefeller Centre New York, Frankfurt’s MesseTurm and the Sony Centre in Berlin, and it was against this backdrop that the discussion turned to the leaders of tomorrow.

“It is important to develop leadership by example,” Jerry pointed out. “You can learn leadership skills, but so much of it is also intuitive. Demonstrating an aptitude for leadership is something that happens very early on.”  As one of the industry’s foremost leaders himself, Jerry’s concluding remarks certainly struck a chord, and as the event drew to a close the audience were left sharing his optimistic outlook for the future.