Brian Coyle is the president and CEO of the Henderson Group, a commercial real estate development company based in Media, Pennsylvania. Founded nearly 100 years ago, the company has earned a reputation as a go-to partner for businesses seeking workplace solutions and commercial property in the Greater Philadelphia region and beyond. The Henderson Group currently owns and operates a portfolio of 3.5 million square feet of commercial real estate, as well as 50 acres of developable land.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Can you give us some background on the company? How did the Henderson Group begin, and what led to you join and become CEO?
BRIAN COYLE: The Henderson Group is a 90-year-old institution. The company was originally founded as a construction company and operated in Southwest Philadelphia. In the 1960s, the company made the transition from construction company to a construction company that dabbled in real estate development. At the time, the idea was to keep the construction crews occupied when there wasn’t a contract by building a building for our own accord and selling it. That eventually gave way to the idea of “Well, you know, we built these buildings—maybe we can lease them and manage them ourselves.” So, from the ‘60s to the ‘80s, we were a real estate construction company that dabbled in real estate development. In the ‘80s, we made the transition to a real estate development company that dabbled in construction. And in the late ‘90s, we really phased out the construction activities.
The Henderson family is the majority owner of The Henderson Group. It’s a 90-year-old company, so in 2012, the Henderson family was doing a generational planning/succession planning exercise and they were attempting to identify who in the family might want to continue on in the business and who in the family might prefer to be more of a background investor. To their credit, they undertook a pretty rigorous exercise in trying to determine that information.
My father, based on his relationship with The Henderson Group and the Henderson family, was asked to come in and help monitor and expedite the exercise. As part of that, I was brought in with my brother and my father to help the Hendersons walk through the process. It was determined at that time that a part of the family would prefer to be cashed out of certain interests, and we ended up doing a recapitalization of the company through typical debt financing in order to facilitate the transactions. The company would move forward, and certain trusts that had been established for a particular family members’ care would be flush with cash.
I took over in June of 2013, along with my brother John, who assumed the role of General Counsel with the company. The balance of our senior leadership team: John Condon, our CFO; Brian Smith, our Head of Property; and Mark Eisenhardt, our Head of Leasing and Business Development stayed on with the company. All three of those gentlemen are 20- to 30-year veterans of the organization. It’s a nice mix of new blood and experience.
Shortly after the recap of the company, in 2013 and 2014, we acquired a 135,000 square foot warehouse, high-tech manufacturing building in Melbourne, Florida, which complemented about 450,000 sq. ft. of flex and office space that we already owned in Melbourne, Florida—and still own today—and did a quasi-build-to-suit. We completely overhauled the building, installed an electrostatic discharge floor, put in high-tech HVAC and humidity control for a components electronic manufacturing firm under a 15-year lease. That was the first big project that really kind of kicked off the rust for the company and got us back in to the development business.
We’re about 3.5 million square feet today. We own an additional 50 acres of ground capable of development. That 3.5 million square feet—the majority of it is in Southeastern Pennsylvania. 600,000 square feet are in Melbourne, Florida.
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