An Executive Summary with Jeanne Myerson

The Executive Summary is a brief video series in which Bay Area real estate and land use professionals discuss the arc of their careers, personal interests, and the impact of ULI on their careers.

An Executive Summary with Jeanne Myerson

Ms. Myerson joined The Swig Company in 1997. Under Jeanne’s leadership, The Swig Company accomplished a smooth transition from its respected roots in the hospitality industry to a recognized urban office investor and manager of over 9 million square feet of office space.

Before joining The Swig Company, Jeanne was president and chief executive officer of Bailard Biehl & Kaiser Real Estate Investment Trust, a private REIT with a diversified, national investment portfolio. Prior to joining BB&K, Ms. Myerson was director of facilities and real estate worldwide for NeXT Computer, Inc., of Redwood City, California. Ms. Myerson joined NeXT from Metropolitan Life Real Estate Investments where she held senior management positions in Boston, New York, and Northern California.

Ms. Myerson has been recognized as one of the most influential women in the San Francisco business community by the San Francisco Business Times, is a member of the board of directors of BRE Properties, Inc., a NYSE-listed developer and operator of multi-family properties and is Chair of its real estate committee and is on the Northern California Advisory Board of City National Bank. In addition, Jeanne was a member of the Executive Committee of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce for many years and is a member of Lambda Alpha.

Jeanne Myerson has been a member of the Urban Land Institute for 15 years.  She has served on multiple National Product Councils and has been a longtime sponsor of ULI San Francisco.

Full-Length Interview

I’m Jeanne Myerson, and I’m president and CEO of the Swig Company, which is a private real estate investment company based here in San Francisco.

First Job in Real Estate / Land Use Field:

My first job in real estate was working with MetLife Insurance Company in a new office that they created in Boston.  Originally the office was established to deal with land that had been obtained through land loan foreclosures, and a lot of the land needed entitlement work.  It needed community outreach.  It needed planning, development, leasing.  So, all those challenges were part of what I did in those years, and it was just tremendously rewarding and fascinating. What I was doing then was in reaction to the problems set in front of me.

Mentors in Your Career:

I think there was probably one professor at Harvard who was really supportive and got me very involved in community economic development work.  And his name is Belden Daniels, and he was a really flamboyant, very creative, articulate guy.  So, I would say if anybody was instrumental in directing me in that way, it would have been he.

Greatest Career Satisfaction:

I’d say several things.  One has been the ability to take a problem and deconstruct it in my own way, which isn’t the way other people would necessarily do it, and sort it out, figure it out and put the puzzle pieces back together and make something happen.  It’s been the ability to—in my current case—reconstruct a terrific company and take it in a new direction.  And given the constant changes in the marketplace and the capital markets, that’s a constant evolution.   I mean, you never get there, you always have to be going somewhere else, because the world around you changes.  So, that gives me a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction.

The other thing that I’ve liked about my career is the fact that I’ve worked with some wonderful people. On my current team, I’ve worked with some of the most talented people.  A number of us have worked together now for 12, 13, 14 years, and that’s tremendously satisfying.  And it’s watching people grow in their jobs and change; and just meeting lots of new people and having the benefit of the creativity that they incent in the way one thinks.

Toughest Challenges Faced in Your Career:

The big challenges depend upon the cycles at hand.  And for a while here, more recently San Francisco, the issues have been too much capital chasing too little product.  And you don’t want to pay a stupid price. (No offense to some people who have bought.  Their capital has different requirements and makes sense to them.)  But it’s just been challenging to figure out how to create value in an era when there’s a lot of capital not all that disciplined and cycles are shortened.

Lessons Learned from Past Real Estate Cycles:

In a simplistic sense: one of the things you learn is not to overbuild.  The other is to be active on your strategy early in the cycle.  So, you don’t want to start buying when everybody else is buying.  You want to be out there when it doesn’t feel so good; when it still kind of feels like maybe this is too risky, but your greatest opportunity is earlier in those cycles.  And you also don’t want to drink the Kool-Aid that “everything’s different this time” and things will go on and on and on.  And particularly out here in the west coast, or in San Francisco Bay Area at least, the cycles are shorter and quite volatile.  So, I’m not a subscriber necessarily to your whole program having to be one of market timing, but if you’re going to buy even later in the cycle, you want to make sure that you’re buying in terms of value, and you don’t overleverage properties so that you can ride through the tough times and come out healthy on the other end.

Favorite Places in the Bay Area / World:

Here in San Francisco, some of my favorite places are some of the step streets and stair streets on the various hills, whether in Telegraph Hill or Russian Hill.  I live at sort of the top of Cole Valley.  It’s kind of a contradiction, because the valley is low.  And there are a lot of stair streets in my general neighborhood, and I just love exploring those little back by-ways and being able to run in out-of-the-way places like up in the Sutro woods and things like that.  So, here in the City, while I love a lot of the edifices, I just love the fact that you can feel like you’re getting away from it all and having a slightly different experience.  And then generally in the Bay Area, I just love all of the hiking opportunities in Marin and along the coast, north and south.

Favorite Ways to Unwind:

I think being outdoors.  I have a 12-year-old daughter who loves to ride horses.  So, I spend a lot of time with her riding and outdoors.  And I like to hike and ramble the city and go camping.

ULI’s Impact on Your Career:

I think the ULI District Council is a wonderful example of community-making and pulling people together and making resources available more widely to others. And had the District Council activities been available when I was younger, that would have been just wonderful.  But I really like the fact, as people seem to approach me as somebody who is more established, that that whole community building aspect is in place and is getting better and better over time.  The District Council has come a long way in just a couple of years, and I just think it makes for a richer real estate community around me. If I reach out and want to try to find talent to hire or check with people for unofficial references on people I’m considering hiring, whether for architectural or structural engineering projects, I’ve got a wonderful body of people to reach out to.

The Executive Summary, developed by Rob DeWaters and Miles Garber, aims to foster wider professional and personal connections across the ULI San Francisco membership.