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January 16, 2019  

CBRE Retail Chief Bratt Jumps to Buy Side

Mark Bratt left his position as the national leader of CBRE’s retail investment sales team last week to take the reins at Westwood Financial and spearhead an ambitious expansion effort.

Bratt started as chief executive of the Los Angeles investment firm Monday. He replaced Joe Dykstra, who worked at Westwood for nearly three decades and led it for the last two years before departing in December.

Bratt plans to focus internally for the next six months, analyzing and refining the firm’s investment strategy, before looking outward for growth opportunities. The company, which has funded its acquisitions largely with capital from wealthy individuals, could seek joint ventures with institutional investors.

“My goal is for Westwood Financial to be a top-five retail investment partner in two years,” said Bratt.

The hiring is a coup for Westwood, which has been seeking to “institutionalize” its business since a restructuring two years ago. Founded in 1970 by Steven Fogel and Howard Banchik, who co-chair its board, Westwood consolidated a series of limited liability partnerships into a single operating company worth $1.2 billion in 2016. It began to upgrade its portfolio, while recruiting retail professionals from DDR, Irvine Co., Macerich, Shopcore and Westfield.

Westwood currently owns 5.1 million square feet at 72 shopping centers. Separately owned stores boost the size of those centers to over 8 million sf. In addition, the firm manages 39 centers with 1.2 million sf.

For Bratt, the move is a return to his buy-side roots. Before his four-year stint at CBRE, he was chief investment officer at DDR. During his time there, the Beachwood, Ohio, REIT was one of the most-active buyers of retail properties in the U.S., spending nearly $5 billion.

Bratt takes the helm at Westwood amid a bleaker retail landscape, as the sector is being battered by bankruptcies, store closings and growing competition from e-commerce. Investment-sales volume has plummeted as many investors have grown skittish about the risks.

Bratt said he sees opportunity amid the disruption. “I think there are many more investing opportunities in 2019 for those firms that have the retail expertise to understand the risks than when I left the investing business in 2015,” he said.

CBRE tapped Bratt for a new role as its national retail sales chief in early 2015. He led a team of 120 sales brokers, including a few dozen top pros that focus on institutional trades throughout the Americas. It was part of a reorganization of CBRE’s capital-markets division aimed at fostering greater collaboration among brokers nationally, better serving clients and landing bigger deals, including portfolios. That year, CBRE dramatically boosted its number of listings worth at least $75 million, and it has brokered some blockbuster deals since. During Bratt’s four-year tenure at CBRE, the firm handled seven retail trades worth at least $250 million, including a $626.4 million portfolio sale in June.

Before his stint at DDR, Bratt spent six years at Morgan Stanley, where he was an executive director of acquisitions and portfolio management and worked on major investments across property sectors. He previously worked at Lend Lease Real Estate of Atlanta and at Amresco and Prentiss Properties, both of Dallas.