Derek Trulson: The Seattleite Who Stormed New York

edtrulson jb reed Derek Trulson: The Seattleite Who Stormed New York

Only a month after moving to New York from Seattle, Derek Trulson was called back to Washington to tie up a deal he’d been working on for five years and had all but written off.

It was a national account for T-Mobile, which Mr. Trulson had been vying for as a broker for Staubach’s still-young Seattle outpost since the late 1990s. But when he was called on to help develop the firm’s New York office, he assumed it was the last he would hear from the telecommunications giant.

With Mr. Trulson’s help, T-Mobile expanded its call center portfolio from just eight locations in 2002 to about 25 today. The coup not only landed Mr. Trulson a new client, but also helped kick-start his burgeoning young career as a New York broker.

“The minute I moved to New York, I got called back and we got the business,” recalled Mr. Trulson of the contract, first sealed in 2002, which later earned him a “Best New Office Development” award from the Dallas Business Journal. “Needless to say, we’ve been with T-Mobile ever since.”

It’s been eight years since the T-Mobile deal, but as international director of Jones Lang LaSalle’s New York Corporate Services business, Mr. Trulson has had success with a wide variety of clients, solidifying his strong reputation as one of New York’s top commercial real estate professionals.

Indeed, with accounts ranging from the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation to Nordstrom, Mr. Trulson has come a long way from the days he was sleeping on a friend’s floor in Tribeca.

“All I knew was how to pick up the phone, right? That’s one thing I knew that was consistent no matter where you are,” recalled Mr. Trulson, 43, of his Gotham arrival nearly a decade ago. “I came into New York with a clean slate and nothing else.”

Mr. Trulson and his colleagues are on the cusp of signing a massive, 180,000-square-foot deal with insurance company Health First, which has whittled its options down to three office spaces in Manhattan. Mr. Trulson said a consolidation of Lower Manhattan office space at 123 Williams Street and 25 Broadway is expected to close within several days.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trulson inked a 100,000-square-foot deal in Lower Manhattan for Cantor Fitzgerald, which is also currently scouting office space in midtown as the firm expands into the real estate investment and development markets under chief executive Howard Lutnick.

“They’re on a tear with growth,” said Mr. Trulson of Cantor, which currently occupies office space at 199 Water Street, 110 East 59th Street and 499 Park Avenue. “They’re building their business and they’re adding businesses as Howard sees opportunities in various markets. What we’re doing is helping Howard decide how to grow the business based on the space they occupy now.”

Additionally, Mr. Trulson alluded to a deal he’s currently negotiating that, all told, could amount to a whopping 450,000 square feet at a pair of locations in midtown and Lower Manhattan. He wouldn’t share more.

“If we’re lucky, we’ll have something to talk about soon,” he said, smiling.

 

MR. TRULSON BEGAN his real estate career working for a contractor after graduating with a bachelor degree in engineering from the University of Washington. He took a leap into commercial brokerage five years later via a job representing tenants at a small firm, and from there he created a partnership with several other brokers that led to a relationship that prompted Dallas-based Staubach’s first Evergreen State outpost in 1996.

Whether it was the lure of New York or the fact that he had spent his entire life in Seattle, Mr. Trulson isn’t sure. But when he was called upon to help develop Staubach’s small but growing New York operation, he set aside his leadership position and equity stake in Seattle and, like a reverse Horace Greeley, took heed in a call to go east.

Born and raised in Seattle, Mr. Trulson is a third-generation Washingtonian who, when he decided to leave home, devised a meticulous plan to persuade his family to support his career path.

“I remember telling my parents on Christmas Eve-which made my mother crazy-that I wanted to move to New York,” recalled Mr. Trulson, who also entertained offers to move to Chicago or Los Angeles. “I gave them all ‘I love New York’ T-shirts and I had a whole pitch. … And that February I was sleeping on the floor of my buddy’s apartment in Tribeca.”

On top of snagging the T-Mobile account, his first several months in New York also boast a personal milestone: his initial encounter with the woman he would later marry, the writer Jennifer Gardner, who, he said, is currently working on a book.

“It was at the time I met my wife, which I didn’t know at the time she would be my wife, that everything just came together,” said Mr. Trulson, then 35, who tied the knot in May of 2005. “You really become a mature adult.”

Today, the couple lives on the Upper East Side with their two children. The transformation from single guy, bikram yoga practitioner and collector of muscle cars into a full-fledged family man has only augmented his real estate career.

“It was a very great, self-centered single man’s lifestyle,” said Mr. Trulson, who joined Jones Lang LaSalle when the company acquired Staubach in 2008. “But life changes, and you don’t realize what kids bring to your life until they’re in your life and you don’t realize how it affects everything, including your career.”

Despite his success, Mr. Trulson still seems as surprised as anyone that his career has shifted from his native Seattle to New York. Naturally, he attributes it all to Jones Lang LaSalle. 

“The questions is, why is a guy like Derek, eight years out of Seattle, working on 200,000-square-foot deals in the Plaza district?” asked Mr. Trulson, his West Coast drawl unmistakable. “How does that happen? It’s because we brought together the right things that support a different aspect of what the customer wants, which is ‘help me make a decision about what to do with my business,’ which leads to deals.”

jsederstrom@observer.com