|By Pam Dawkins, Connecticut Post, Bridgeport
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 5, 2005 - -FAIRFIELD -- There's no other word for it; the office is tiny. Joe McCann could almost literally pick up something from the other side of the room without leaving his chair.
But with this rented house on Rowland Road in Fairfield as his base, McCann in the past year or so has brokered $300 million in hotel sales.
McCann, 48, started Optimum Hotel Brokerage in late 2001 after 25 years in hotel management with companies like Hilton and Marriott. He moved around for years, ending up in Connecticut when his (now ex) wife accepted a job in the area. He worked for a year as director of marketing for the Stamford Marriott.
"I just got tired of the operations end of the business," he said, describing feeling "confined" and more interested in finance and development.
A hotel broker works as the intermediary between the buyer and seller. His database of 10,000 names includes current and past owners of hotels of all sizes.
"It's very specialized," he said, with fewer than 100 people working in the United States.
McCann puts together offering 30-to-50-page packages of hotels that are on the market, including the financial information, market analysis and construction specifics. An insider's knowledge of the industry is a must, he added.
"You try to weave in selling points for prospective buyers," he said.
"Part of my job is really relationship building," with the people and entities, such as Real Estate Investment Trusts, that are in the market. He tries to learn the likes and dislikes of prospective buyers, so he might one day be able to go to them with a hotel they've always wanted, or one that fits into their portfolio.
Brokering hotel deals is harder than selling office buildings or homes, he said, because of all the other parties involved, everyone from unions to hotel franchisers to management companies. A broker also has to be familiar with the area around a hotel, everything from how the local economy is getting on to how the competition is doing.
He recently brokered the sale of the Crowne Plaza in Hartford, packaged with another Crowne Plaza in New Jersey. And in August, he was part of Thor Equities' $230 million deal to buy the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. That was only the second time in its 80-year history that the Palmer House was on the market, McCann said.
His history with that hotel dates back to his first job in the industry, which was as a food and beverage trainee at the Palmer House. He spent five years there.
"My experience with Palmer House came full circle. I really love that hotel." McCann earns a commission of between .05 and 6 percent on each sale.
His average commission is in the six figures, according to McCann, who added he made into the seven figures this year.
He's already planning his expansion. In October, he'll move to Philadelphia to open an office there, shifting his Connecticut office to the Danbury area. He wants to hire at least two people for each office.
And McCann eventually wants to own a hotel himself, then move into ownership and management of full-service hotels.
"When hotels are done well, there's no better investment," he said.
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