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Commercial Real Estate

Industry Pioneer Roger Staubach Is the Ultimate Power Broker

After retiring from football, the Hall-of-Fame quarterback disrupted commercial real estate with a revolutionary approach to brokerage.
| |Photography by Trevor Paulhus and Courtesy of Pro Football Hall of Fame
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Trevor Paulhus

Commercial real estate services have evolved to include everything from space planning and data analytics to incentives negotiations. But in the early days, it was a simple matter of development and leasing. It’s hard to convey the huge impact the advent of tenant representation—and the unlikely disruptor who helped pioneer it—has had on the industry. 

Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach was a 27-year-old rookie when he joined the Dallas Cowboys in 1969, after keeping his commitment of service to the U.S. Navy. Earning a salary of just $25,000, he began looking for work in the offseason. A Naval Academy friend connected him with the Henry S. Miller Co. 

Staubach joined in 1970, working briefly in its insurance division until he talked firm leaders into letting him get involved on the real estate side of things. “I worked every offseason until I decided that I wanted to make real estate a future for me, outside of football,” he says. 

After learning the ropes at Miller, Staubach joined developer Robert Holloway in a boutique venture in 1977. He retired from football in the spring of 1980, and two years later formed his own firm, The Staubach Co. It was an amicable split; Holloway wanted to focus on development, and Staubach wanted to build a company around his interest in representing tenants. 

It had been sparked by an early experience at Miller. A corporate exec was looking to move his company. A colleague at work reached out and said, “Hey, we need to show you Mockingbird Towers. We’re leasing that.” Staubach agreed to set up a tour. “Then I thought it through and wondered, ‘Well, what if Mockingbird Towers isn’t the right fit? The client should have a chance to see everything that’s available.’ And that became my life—the tenant side of the business, working with the users who were looking for office space.”

Today, tenant representation is a conventional part of the commercial real estate business. But 40 years ago, it was anything but. Landlords had enjoyed having the leverage in negotiations and not having to compete as much against other properties. Before long, tenant representation—and The Staubach Co.—flourished. 

Along with growing the specialty of tenant representation, Staubach was a pioneer in another way, too, placing women in executive roles at his firm—leaders like Ka Cotter, Elysia Ragusa, and Susan Arledge. 

With his connections and high profile, Staubach became a broker’s business development dream. What’s more, he didn’t take any of the commissions. “I knew the business we’d win would benefit the company, and the commission stuff can be tricky,” Staubach says. “Commissions are important, but they’re secondary to making sure you do the right thing for customers.”

After experiencing rapid growth in North Texas, clients compelled Staubach to help them in other markets. The firm opened branches in other cities, giving professionals there a stake in their local operations. At its peak, The Staubach Co. had 60 offices across the country with 1,600 employees. 

By 2008, Staubach’s clients were asking him to help them with deals in international markets. Around the same time, global firm JLL was seeking to expand in the U.S. The two parties seemed to be a good match, and in June of that year, JLL acquired The Staubach Co. for $613 million. Staubach benefitted financially personally, of course, but he’s most proud of the fact that many company partners in local offices across the country did, too. 

Staubach stayed on with JLL as executive chairman before retiring in 2018. A devout family man, Staubach likens the merger to the most important relationship in his life. “My wife Marianne and I have been married for 56 years, and it’s a great marriage,” he says. “I’m fortunate that the JLL and Staubach Co. marriage could not have been more perfect, too.”  

The Champion Pedigree

Roger Staubach entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985 for his on-field heroics. He is equally proud of his 2018 induction into the NTCAR Hall of Fame–which recognizes leaders for their achievements in commercial real estate. Founded in 1987 by Robert Grunnah, Chris Teesdale, and Darrell Hurmis, the inaugural class of inductees included John Stemmons Sr., Henry S. Miller Jr., Angus G. Wynne Jr., L. Storey Stemmons, and Lyn E. Davis. What started as a $4,000 event has grown to packed affairs honoring scores of luminaries. The tradition will continue on May 4 with the induction of Tim Headington, founder and CEO of Headington Cos., and Bill Cawley, chairman and CEO of Cawley Partners. —Brandon J. Call

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Christine Perez

Christine Perez

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Christine is the editor of D CEO magazine and its online platforms. She’s a national award-winning business journalist who has…

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