As senior vice president of acquisitions at National Retail Properties (NNN-NYSE), Josh Lewis is helping the net lease REIT acquire on average between $650 million and $850 million in restaurant and retail properties each year. But it was not long ago Lewis was sitting on the other side of the table helping restaurant operators structure sale-leaseback transactions.
After graduating from Miami University with a double major in finance and marketing in 1995, Lewis entered an investment banking analyst program with NationsBanc Capital Markets (now Bank of America Merrill Lynch). What started as a two-year program became a 13-year stint where he was deeply involved in real estate capital markets and investment banking.
During that tenure, Lewis became a product specialist in synthetic leasing and net lease transactions where he was responsible for helping to arrange sale-leasebacks for Bank of America clients across a variety of industries.
In 2005, he was advising a convenience store client on a $175 million sale-leaseback transaction. Lewis helped put the transaction together and market it with the sale eventually going to National Retail Properties. "Through that transaction I got to know the management team at National Retail Properties very well," says Lewis. Fast forward a couple of years and that relationship turned into a job offer.
Lewis joined National Retail Properties in 2008 with the goal of growing the REIT’s exposure in the restaurant sector. "2008, 2009 and 2010 were a dicey time in the capital markets," says Lewis. National Retail Properties, like many investors, was not doing a lot of acquisitions during the financial crisis. Instead, he used that time to create and strengthen relationships in the restaurant sector. So, when acquisitions kickstarted again in 2011, Lewis was ready to hit the ground running.
These days, Lewis is responsible for developing relationships, originating transactions, negotiating transactions and seeing them through to execution. His primary focus is restaurants, but he also handles other retail transactions. The REIT is actively acquiring assets through both sale-leasebacks and reverse build-to-suits where it provides financing for new store growth.
Operators need to be strategic about the assets they want to monetize, as well as take into account lease structure and flexibility when negotiating those deals, notes Lewis. In both structures, it is important to recognize cap rates are not the only consideration. "You need to decide whether or not you want to own your real estate," he says. "Oftentimes, real estate is monetized, because the operator can earn a higher return on their operating business versus having an investment tied up in hard assets." For more information, contact Josh Lewis at 407-650-3695 or firstname.lastname@example.org.