The Mechanic

 

BUT DESPITE THE GLORY such complicated deals promise to bring to real estate professionals of his ilk, Mr. Nottingham said he would be happy to trade the complicated deals for what he described as the “cookie cutters,” the open-and-shut cases that he was involved with as a young broker for LaSalle Partners back in the 1980s.

“Usually, by the time I’m at the end of a big deal, I’m pretty worn out by it,” acknowledged Mr. Nottingham, who lives in New Canaan, Conn., with his wife, Sandra Nottingham. “It’s been going on for so long and it’s so hard and there’s so many complicated issues. There’s so little anymore that are straightforward. I’m not doing the fun little easy cookie cutters anymore.”

Looking back, even some of Mr. Nottingham’s earliest achievements were notable for their complexity. His first successful deal, in fact, was anything but “cookie cutter.” A broker for LaSalle Partners in 1984, Mr. Nottingham managed to reel in Prodigy—at the time one of the first online services—when the company began its search for office space in White Plains, N.Y. The resulting deal totaled 200,000 square feet of space.

“And they were going to do all of this on a thing called the Internet,” recalled Mr. Nottingham of the joint venture between IBM, CBS and Sears that ended up folding years later. “I’d sit in a meeting and they would talk about it, and I had no clue what they were saying. I mean, this was 1984, so I had no clue what they were saying.”

“I sort of get it now,” he added wryly.

Soft-spoken and armed with a dry sense of humor, Mr. Nottingham appears less interested in touting his lofty title or his prestigious client roster than do many of his colleagues in the real estate industry. Talking about the absurdity of professional titles that at their lengthiest can span for days—think senior executive managing director of restructuring or some such—the modest Midwest native dropped a juicy Page Six–style blind item about a well-known peer at a competing firm.

“I don’t know why people get so fixated by that, but they do,” Mr. Nottingham said. “I know a guy—and you know him, too—who is very, very senior at a major, major organization, and I’m absolutely convinced that you could never give him a raise, and keep giving him bigger titles, and that would be all he needed to be very happy.”

For now, Mr. Nottingham says he has plenty of reasons to be happy, not least of all his continued success in the real estate game and his retirement from the automobile industry. Asked if he has any fond memories of those days, or even if he has a lasting interest in the automobiles themselves, Mr. Nottingham demurs.

“All my cars have over 100,000 miles on them,” he said. “And that’s fine by me.”

jsederstrom@observer.com

The Mechanic