By Gail Kalinoski
Chicago—JLL President & CEO Colin Dyer, who has held the dual titles since 2004, said an executive-level restructuring that will separate the two roles starting June 1 will “position JLL for even further growth.”
Saying it was part of a “comprehensive succession planning process,” JLL announced this week it was promoting Christian Ulbrich to president starting June 1. Ulbrich, currently CEO for the EMEA region, will answer to Colin Dyer, who remains CEO.
Dyer will continue to guide the firm’s global strategy, with an emphasis on IT and data strategies, and oversee LaSalle Investment Management as well as the firm’s finance, human resources, legal and marketing functions.
Ulbrich, who was also nominated for election in May to the JLL Board of Directors, was appointed CEO of JLL’s German business in April 2005 and became CEO of the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region in January 2009. His new role calls for him to manage JLL’s regional businesses in Asia Pacific, EMEA and the Americas, and to focus on driving growth through acquisitions.
“With (my) increased focus on data and technology and Christian’s focus on the regions, our ability to respond to and take advantage of the opportunities we see ahead is stronger than ever,” Dyer told Commercial Property Executive.
Also part of the leadership reorganization taking effect June 1 are UK Chief Executive Guy Grainger, who will be Ulbrich’s successor as EMEA CEO, and Chris Ireland, who takes over as UK chief executive. Ireland now serves as UK chairman & lead director of UK Capital Markets. Last week, JLL named Anthony Couse the Asia Pacific CEO as of July 1. Couse, currently the managing director of Shanghai and East China & head of Capital Markets for China, is succeeding the departing Alastair Hughes, who had been with the global commercial real estate services firm for more than 25 years.
Dyer said the changes “reflect the needs of leadership to identify new ways to add value for our clients and reinforce our industry leadership in commercial and digital innovation. They are major moves toward the future leadership of our great company.”
“I think it shows good governance,” Mitch Germain, a managing director and analyst with JMP Securities, told CPE. “It’s probably a smart decision to make and a good validation of the strength of the company.”
He said it may make sense for Dyer to spend more time on the strategic direction of the company while allowing someone else to run the regions. Germain said Ulbrich’s experience managing a region, building relationships and responding to customers’ needs makes him a good choice for the new position.
“The shifting needs of the customer have probably created a capacity for the firm to have somebody in this role who is responsible now for the regions,” he told CPE.
Dyer noted in a prepared statement that Ulbrich has “delivered sustained growth, doubling the region’s revenue and increasing profits more than fourfold. He consistently earns the respect of clients and colleagues, and demonstrates a keen ability to identify future opportunities and embrace change.”
Analyst Brandon Dobell, a partner and group head of global services at William Blair & Co., said the JLL board is likely preparing for Dyer’s eventual departure and moving the executives into new key positions now as part of a long-term process for possibly choosing a new CEO.
“Colin has been CEO for a long time relative to the other firms (and probably the average CEO tenure) and I’m sure JLL’s shareholders have been asking about succession,” he told CPE.
JLL is coming off a strong year with record revenue at JLL and LaSalle and 24 acquisitions announced or closed in 2015 for a total of $604 million. One of those deals was for Corrigo Inc., a technology company that is a pioneer in cloud-based facilities management solutions. Corrigo became a wholly-owned subsidiary when the deal closed in December.
“Superior data, information and analytics capabilities are imperatives for successful real estate firms and their importance will continue to increase over time,” Dyer said of tech deals like Corrigo and the significance of IT and data strategies to the company. “Our exceptional tools and innovative expertise enhance productivity for our firm and our clients, and equip us to make smarter decisions. We already lead the real estate industry in digital innovation and will now further increase our differentiation.”
Dyer said M&A would remain an important growth strategy for JLL this year.
“Our investment-grade balance sheet provides flexibility to continue executing transactions that provide strategic value, align with our culture and enhance our ability to provide top-quality services to our clients,” he added.
Germain agreed, saying the company is “clearly looking to be opportunistic.”
Dyer, he said, has done “a fantastic job” since taking over as president & CEO in 2004.