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Posted on
Dec 19 2011

Real Estate Executive Speaker Series: William Sullivan ‘83, CFO of Prologis

Head of Worldwide Corporate Finance at Prologis proffers industry insights and career advice to students

By JW Victor '12

On November 9, 2011, William Sullivan ‘83, Chief Financial Officer of Prologis, shared stories and wisdom with a packed room of students, faculty and administrators as the distinguished speaker for Kellogg’s Real Estate Executive Speaker Series.

Mr. Sullivan began the luncheon with an overview of his career, tracing his steps from public accounting with Ernst & Ernst and commercial lending with First Chicago to heading global corporate finance for the world’s largest industrial real estate owner. Mr. Sullivan spent significant time recounting—and gave particular credit to— his years working under Bill Sanders, founder of LaSalle Partners, for shaping his real estate career. “Sanders was the most dynamic guy I ever worked for.”

After listening to a compelling personal and professional story, students were pleased to hear Mr. Sullivan’s optimism towards the real estate market. Due to tremendous deleveraging and recapitalization over the last few years, Mr. Sullivan noted, “The commercial real estate industry is very strong today.”

Two industry trends received Mr. Sullivan’s special mention. First, he predicted continued consolidation over the next three to five years. The bulk of that activity will come by way of increased public ownership of real estate. Second, he stressed how truly global the economy has become: “Every day page 1 in the papers now includes global events that dramatically influence our lives.” What’s going on globally dominates Mr. Sullivan’s day, and thus he stressed the importance of understanding the global dynamics that drive markets.

Mr. Sullivan concluded his remarks with several pearls of wisdom gathered over many years in the business. One, if something sounds too good to be, it is too good to be true. Two, debt kills. Buy only what you can afford, and you’ll sleep better at night. Three, take risks, but be patient. Put your head down, do a great job, and great things will happen. Lastly, when deciding on a position after Kellogg, find something where you can make a difference and be noticed. It’s a small industry, and relationships are everything.

About the Author

This article was written by JW Victor '12.