Robert Martin Makes Historical Investment That Brings Firm Back to its Roots
John Jordan | July 2019
“Our assets are coming home.”
Greg Berger, partner, Robert Martin Co.
(Part one of two)
ELMSFORD—Earlier this year Robert Martin Co. reached back to its storied past to reshape its future when it acquired a 3.1-million-square-foot industrial/flex portfolio its company founders had originally developed from the 1970s through the 1990s.
The $487.5-million purchase of the 56-building portfolio by Robert Martin and equity partner HIG Realty Partners of Miami from Mack-Cali Realty Corp. of Jersey City, NJ was the largest in terms of value in Westchester County history. Roughly 95% of the properties acquired by the partnership in Westchester and Fairfield counties in late March were part of the portfolio Robert Martin owned, built and sold to Cali Corp., the predecessor of Mack-Cali Realty, in 1997. The 1997 transaction was valued at $450 million and involved approximately 4.1 million square feet in office/industrial/flex properties in Westchester County and Connecticut.
Real Estate In-Depth recently sat down with Robert Martin Co. CEO Timothy Jones, 64, and Managing Director Greg Berger,56, the second generation of the Westchester-based real estate investment and development firm. The company was founded by partners Robert Weinberg and Martin Berger in 1957 as a residential development firm, but eventually became one of the “Big Three” pioneer commercial real estate development firms in Westchester—along with Halpern Enterprises and Schulman Realty Group.
Robert Martin evolved and became a dominant player in the development of Downtown White Plains, Greenburgh, Port Chester and Tarrytown.
The firm under Weinberg and Berger built many of the county’s premier office and industrial flex properties. Weinberg, 90, is the co-founder of the company and continues to work at Robert Martin Co. as its president. Berger passed away at the age of 81 in 2011.
Jones said the deal to reacquire the company’s former assets is “transformational” for the company.
He noted that the company’s investment philosophy has always been opportunistic and admitted that prior to the deal, “Always in the back of our minds the best of the Robert Martin-Mack-Cali assets were something we always wanted to get back if the deal was right,” Jones said.
“The key for us to do this (deal) was talent,” Jones said. “We feel really good about the people that work for us and so we were able to augment what we had and really increase the expertise, particularly in property management, construction and local leasing.”
The firm has hired between 15 to 20 new employees after the merger a few months ago. Robert Martin currently employs approximately 50 in Westchester County.
He added that while Weinberg’s current focus is on land development, he was “very excited” the company was acquiring many of the properties he and his partner Martin built decades earlier.
Jones originally worked for Robert Martin in 1990 and later worked for Mack Cali before returning to the company in 2004. Berger, the son of co-founder Martin, originally began working at Robert Martin in 1985 and also worked at Mack-Cali and eventually returned to Robert Martin in 2003.
With the mega-acquisition, Robert Martin presently has ownership in a diversified real estate portfolio of approximately 6 million square feet of properties and 200 acres of undeveloped land in six states, concentrated primarily in the New York City suburbs. RMC’s principals also own controlling interests in several other companies including a dominant portfolio of Dunkin’ stores in the Carolinas.
Berger noted that another critical component of the portfolio purchase was the company’s familiarity with Mack-Cali since both he and Jones worked for the firm and Mack-Cali’s Westchester headquarters was also located adjacent to Robert Martin’s offices at 100 Clearbrook Road.
“We have a very good rapport with their management so it was a nice, easy transaction to do with people we are friendly with,” Berger added.
Part two of this feature in the August edition of Real Estate In-Depth will focus on where Robert Martin executives Jones and Berger will take the company in the years to come.