By the time I walk into Parigi a few minutes before noon, the small, French-style bistro on Oak Lawn Avenue is already bustling with the lunchtime crowd. I’m surprised to see a table full of co-workers, stop to say hello, then head toward a two-top in a corner, figuring it would be the quietest spot. My lunch date, Sabine Gaedeke Stener, soon arrives. She’s a regular at Parigi, which sits just across the street from her Gaedeke Group headquarters. Without opening a menu, she orders the chicken club salad—a favorite, she says. I opt for the caesar salad with chicken. Named the best in Dallas by the readers of two different reader polls, it does not disappoint.
Stener tells me it has been 22 years since she first arrived in Dallas, with just two suitcases and a stack of operating statements for some real estate properties her father had acquired in Texas. He built a string of senior-living developments in the family’s home country of Germany, and was seeking to diversify his holdings with some U.S. assets. Stener, who holds post-graduate degrees in marketing, psychology, and international management from the University of Hamburg, was working for Bertelsmann AG, one of the world’s largest media companies. She planned a trip to Los Angeles to visit a friend, and her father persuaded her to stop in Dallas on the way back. “He wanted me to see if we should make a business of it,” says Stener, who decided to stay and do just that.
Real estate is all about placemaking, and energy fulfills an elemental need.
It wasn’t an easy adjustment. “Dallas was really an antithesis to any European city,” she says. “There was no real city center and no people on the street. There were very few entertainment venues or restaurants open after 10 p.m. It’s very different today.”
Having success in Dallas, Gaedeke Group expanded to other U.S. markets. It now owns 14 Class A office buildings in Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington, D.C. Local holdings include Millennium Tower off the Dallas North Tollway and One McKinney Plaza in Uptown. The company is known for its long-term-hold strategy and for doing major remodels of the buildings it buys. But it’s starting from scratch with its latest project, One Legacy West in Plano. When it opens at the the end of this year, the 14-story tower will be the only major multitenant office building in Legacy West, a 250-acre development that’s anchored by big campuses for Toyota North America, Liberty Mutual, FedEx Office, and JPMorgan Chase. Designed by Morrison Dilworth + Walls, it will feature amenities like an outdoor deck lounge, bike lockers, and a reflecting pool. But the real focus is on usability, Stener says. “We wanted to build something state-of-the-art, where anyone from anywhere in the world would feel at home—something with a global sensibility,” she says. “We’re putting in hoteling stations, and we’ve got quick accesibility to the airport. We wanted to make it easy.”
Along with overseeing One Legacy West, Stener is busy pursuing real estate acquisitions in Boston and Manhattan—and opportunistic oil and gas buys for Gaedeke Energy, which she also runs. The well-capitalized group has assets in five states and is hungry for more. “We want to be part of the energy revolution,” Stener says.
She finds her dual, high-impact careers to be “incredibly rewarding. Real estate is all about placemaking,” she explains, “and energy fulfills an elemental need.
“It’s also an industry in transition, going from a wildcatter type of environment to a Wall Street asset class,” Stener says. “There’s a funny juxtaposition of the old guard and the new guard, bringing in new engineering and technology—it’s fascinating.”
Stener’s sister and brother also are involved in running the company built by their father, who passed away four years ago. Both siblings work in Hamburg. Stener and her husband, a technology executive who hails from England (the two expats met as next-door neighbors soon after arriving in Dallas), have two teenage children and are glad they’ve made Dallas their home. “It’s a very easy place to raise a family,” Stener says, “and there’s a great business environment here.”
This story originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of D CEO magazine.