By Jonathan Pappas
It could be argued that Borja Sierra is the international man of the commercial brokerage world.
Having lived in five countries and currently working in over 20, he has developed a Rolodex of foreign buyers so vast and deep that he has become one of the leading commercial brokers in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
At 46 years old, Sierra has facilitated more sales with foreign investors than many in his field.
As executive managing director and head of U.S. Capital Markets for Savills Studley, a commercial real estate services firm specializing in tenant representation, Sierra has built an industry-wide reputation of being the “go-to” broker for foreign investors looking for high-end commercial and sometimes residential real estate in the U.S. and around the world.
Throughout his career, he has been involved in over $10 billion worth of sales.
With a transaction volume of over $8.4 billion, it’s no surprise that his 20-year career at Savills has seen him rise through the ranks, often exceeding expectations in many of the firm’s leadership positions.
Throughout his tenure, he has been instrumental in the growth of Savills both in the U.S. and Europe and is a critical member of Savills’ global leadership team.
Sierra first joined U.K.-based global real estate giant, Savills, in 1995. Responsible for the firm’s Spanish business, he was based out of Madrid for 10 years.
In 2007, Sierra made his presence known when he was awarded the “Single Largest Deal in Europe” recognition for the sale of Santander Headquarters for $2.4 billion.
In 2011, he was named CEO of Savills’ European business where he spent the majority of his time in Continental Europe working alongside the Country Heads to build their businesses and grow client relationships while simultaneously expanding in core geographies and service offerings.
In 2014, upon the acquisition of New York-based Studley, Sierra relocated to the Big Apple to take on the role of Executive Managing Director in charge of cross-border investments for Savills newly formed U.S. arm, Savills Studley.
According to Sierra, New York City is currently the hottest market in the U.S. for commercial investment from foreign buyers because the deals are much larger.
“Today, there is more money in the market and everyone is chasing deals,” said Sierra. “The economy has improved here.
“But the challenge with the U.S. market is that there are extremely clever players here. When you look at a deal in Madrid, there are 20 people already looking at it; in London, there are 50. But in New York City, there are over 100 people already in the game. It’s one of the most competitive markets.”
In November, Savills Studley’s US Cross-Border Group brokered a deal with Deka Immobilien GmbH, the real estate investment fund of German-based DekaBank, which manages over $16 billion worth of real estate. It acquired a pair of prime office buildings within the Terret Polanco complex in Mexico City from Tresalia Capital Investment Fund.
The 700,000 s/f complex is comprised of two 18-story Class A office properties, including the Torre Sur and the forthcoming Torre Norte tower.
Both properties were developed by one of the top real estate developers in Mexico, Abilia.
In addition, Deka Immobilien Investment partnered with Ashkenazy Acquisition to buy two retail condos at 522 Fifth Avenue.
The investors paid $170 million — or a little more than $6,400 per square foot — for the location at West 44th Street, according to the New York Post.
It was through Sierra’s strong connections that Savills was able to identify the private European investor who purchased The Bergen, one of Brooklyn’s most sought-after boutique multifamily buildings, from the Naftali Group for $52.2 million in December.
Globally, Sierra pointed to a fast-growing trend that isn’t likely to slow down. “All the money these days is in joint ventures,” he said.
When asked about the secret to his success, Sierra doesn’t sugar-coat the inevitable.
“I’ve been fortunate to tap into the employee base of 27,000 that Savills has around the world ]they are currently the largest broker in Asia]. I’ve spent the last 20 years collecting and nurturing the relationships that have come my way — giving and taking good advice, attending countless conferences, traveling constantly and taking advantage of as much face-to-face time as I can and working to instill the value of foreign investors into the minds of my U.S. colleagues and counterparts.”