MHN Interview: Watt Companies’ Nadine Watt

Nadine Watt talks to MHN about her new appointment as president of Watt Companies, and the firm's shift toward acquisitions, development and joint ventures.

On July 1 Nadine Watt will become president of Watt Companies, a large commercial owner, development and management firm in the West. The company describes her appointment as reflective of a strategic shift toward increased activity in acquiring and developing assets and pursuing joint ventures that will diversify investments. Watt talks to MHN about taking over at a company her grandfather started 60 years ago.

MHN: Your appointment as president of Watt Companies is meant to align with a shift away from property management and leasing toward acquisition and development. What is the thinking behind this new strategy, and what makes you the person to help steer the ship?

Watt: Watt Companies’ roots are in development. As a strategic firm with capital and the platform to invest, we realize we can add more value to our asset-management operations than property management. Because we are a flexible and nimble firm, we can take advantage of the opportunities as they are developing today.

I have been involved with Watt Companies for the past 12 years in nearly all facets of operations here, including ground-up development and asset management. My new appointment at Watt has been a long time coming. We have been preparing for this transition, which will enable the third generation of the family to take the helm, for several years now.

MHN: I understand that CEO Jim Maginn and CIO Dean Pentikis will be leading a new investment division that will focus on acquiring retail and multifamily assets. How will that component factor in to the company’s big picture?

Watt: The new investment division led by Jim Maginn and Dean Pentikis is the specific growth vehicle that will help fuel our new focus on strategic acquisitions. While we are looking to continue managing our existing portfolio to maximize its value and cash flow, this new division will enable us to focus on growing our asset base and business lines in an exciting period for both the company and the real estate market.

MHN: Can you tell us what your company’s intentions are in terms of pursuing joint ventures that would diversify your portfolio?

Watt: We are looking at a wide range of new opportunities across a variety of sectors, primarily in the multifamily, retail, land and debt areas. Geographically, we are focused on the West Coast, from Washington all the way down to Arizona, and as far east as Denver.

MHN: You have a background in urban and mixed-use types of multifamily. In terms of development, what do you see as the biggest challenges to satisfying the demand in densely populated areas of the current market?

Watt: I believe the biggest challenge is finding appropriately priced land and navigating the development and entitlement process to deliver the right product to the consumer in the marketplace. Our new platform is being built to seek out niche opportunities to deliver to these underserved markets.

MHN: On the property management side, what approaches that may have been successful 10 years ago are today outdated? Conversely, what are people trying today that had no place in yesterday’s technological environment?

Watt: In this challenging economic environment, we have needed to be more creative and flexible in working with both new and existing tenants to structure terms to foster continued success for both the tenants and for Watt Companies in the long term. Even though we have moved into much more technologically advanced methods of managing, we have never strayed from our roots and our understanding of how important it is to have direct relationships with our tenants.

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