From day one, Randy Cooper was hooked on the commercial real estate business.
“What I love about it is that it’s a little bit of everything,” he says. “You’re a salesman, a consultant, a bit of an attorney, part construction guy, and a big problem-solver and strategic thinker. You’re also a space planner, a bit of an architect, and a financial analyst or accountant. You can be out at a construction site at 10 a.m., then back in a suit and tie doing a strategy session in a downtown highrise at 2 p.m.”
Cooper, vice chairman and principal at Cassidy Turley, had to rely on all of those skills in 2012, negotiating the largest office deal in Dallas history—a 1.5 million-square-foot lease for longtime client State Farm. The insurance giant will anchor a $1.5 billion project KDC is developing in Richardson. Cooper also put together leases for State Farm at the former Nortel campus in Richardson and the former Citigroup campus in Las Colinas. It all adds up to a whopping 2.5 million square feet of North Texas office space.
Born and raised in San Antonio, Cooper intended to go into the oil and gas business after graduating from The University of Texas at Austin in 1983. But the energy industry was faltering, so he took a job as a junior leasing agent instead, peddling office space in San Antonio. He switched to tenant representation a year later, hooking up with broker Bill Wolff, whom he credits with “teaching me what the business was like on the streets.” Soon, tenant reps from Dallas began trying to hone in on big accounts in San Antonio.
“Wolff and I were beating them time after time, and our egos got inflated,” Cooper says. “We decided to move to Dallas and beat them on their home turf.”
This was the spring of 1990. As it turned out, replicating their success in North Texas wasn’t so easy.
Wolff ultimately headed to Houston, and Cooper went to work for Wayne Swearingen at Barclay Commercial. In September of 1994, Swearingen merged his firm with Fults Associates, operating as Oncor International.
“When you were in Dallas in the mid-1990s, working for Jerry Fults and Wayne Swearingen, good things were going to happen,” Cooper says. “They helped me out so much; I needed them like I needed air.”
From there, Cooper joined Equis, where he learned the corporate services business, working on accounts such as Ericsson, Coca-Cola, Chrysler, Chicago Title, and State Farm. Five years later, he shifted over to Insignia, with the intent of helping it become a formidable national force. But within a year, Insignia was sold to CBRE.
At a broker party at Craig Hall’s house one night, Cooper began talking with heavy hitter Greg Biggs, who at the time led the Dallas office of Studley. “We said, ‘We should really team up, instead of duking it out against the other guys in the room on our own. If we teamed up, it would be fantastic.’”
A deal was put together for Biggs and colleague Craig Wilson to join Cooper at CBRE, but then everything went silent—for six long weeks. As it turned out, CBRE was working on a deal to acquire Trammell Crow Co., and all hiring plans were killed.
Instead, the three brokers joined Cushman & Wakefield, where they worked until shifting over to Cassidy Turley in 2011, joined by former C&W colleague Rob Morris. The opportunity to build Cassidy Turley’s tenant representation business in Texas, and take an ownership stake in the firm, sealed the deal, Cooper says.
“The mindset is completely different here,” he says. “Everyone helps everyone else, and we’re all happy to do so. You get out of a selfish broker mentality and work as a team, focused on building the company.”
After 30 years in the business, Cooper says he’s still passionate about his chosen career: “The reason people stay in this business, why they don’t retire, is because it’s an absolute blast.”