Case Studies

Jim Tully – ICON International

Using barter to unlock hidden value for customers

It could be that Zoom or Teams have made the company’s jet an expensive accessory by eliminating the need for so much travel. It could be that online shopping and banking have reduced the need for retail space, or that remote and hybrid work arrangements have lessened the need for office space.

Whatever the reason, Jim Tully knows the corporate world is full of companies looking to shed assets that drain resources but also won’t fetch the desired price. As senior vice president for real estate, Tully leads ICON International’s efforts to help companies dispose of these properties—anything from warehouses to bank branches.

Jim Tully | Senior Vice President, Real Estate | ICON International

Jim Tully | Senior Vice President, Real Estate | ICON International

But ICON isn’t simply buying; it’s helping companies unlock a financial benefit hidden within their everyday expenditures, Tully explains.

“I’m one of the only people in the real estate industry who can buy high and sell low,” he says. “ICON helps our clients solve asset problems. We provide better than market recovery for a customer’s assets.”

Surplus items wanted

ICON was founded in 1986 on the premise of corporate barter and holds a patent for inventing the cash-trade transaction process. Tully’s responsibility is to manage the property transactions from acquisition to resale.

No matter what ICON purchases, the seller agrees to purchase a portion of their existing needs—such as printing, travel services, freight and consumer advertising—through ICON. The costs, specifications and guidelines remain the same for whatever the seller agrees to purchase, Tully says.

Jim Tully | Senior Vice President, Real Estate | ICON International

In 2021, ICON’s management team acquired the company from former owners Omnicom Media Group. Tully says the acquisition provides more autonomy for the company and will help it deliver customized solutions as more potential customers look to dispose of property, with many sales motivated by workplace changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“ICON is the problem solver for someone with difficult assets lacking a clear path to disposition,” Tully says. “Clients benefit from the higher price and certainty of close that ICON provides.”

Ready to buy

ICON’s real estate practice, led by Tully since 2005, has bought and sold properties in 27 states and five countries for a total of over 50 million square feet.

Tully says the first sale can be the toughest because the client may not be familiar with ICON’s business model. However, the upfront investment of time and explanation is often recouped, with more than 90 percent of clients returning to ICON to sell their assets or property.

Typically, ICON acquires properties that have been on the market for at least six months. In some instances, it purchases entire portfolios, including 19 bank branches it bought in 2019 and 12 claims processing centers it bought around the same time from a national insurance company, Tully says.

Jim Tully | Senior Vice President, Real Estate | ICON International

The bank branches were no longer needed because of mobile banking, and the claims centers were unneeded because much of the work previously done at the claims centers was being done by smart phone.

Once properties like these are acquired, Tully commonly works with the same local real estate agents to market them. Though ICON buys most properties on an “as is, where is” basis, Tully still needs to work with consultants, title companies, engineers and surveyors before closing to ensure there aren’t issues that would impede resale.

The need grows

The pandemic may not have made offices irrelevant, but it has left them less occupied. Results from an Apollo Technical survey in January show 48 percent of employees preferred to work remotely while 44 percent favored a hybrid model. While only 5 percent of employers favored the fully remote option, 51 percent favor hybrid arrangements.

With that as the backdrop, Tully expects demand to increase for the company’s services.

“We provide solutions to challenging property situations,” Tully says. “If the path to disposition was easy, then they wouldn’t need us for that property.”

A native of North Syracuse, New York, he went into commercial real estate in 1994 after graduating from Duke University with a bachelor’s degree in economics.

Jim Tully | Senior Vice President, Real Estate | ICON International

He began at the national firm of CB Richard Ellis, where he rose to become a vice president in 10 years while being involved in the disposition of more than $5 billion in commercial real estate. His duties included providing market analysis, financial underwriting, marketing and negotiations for private and institutional clients, he says.

A father of three who enjoys fishing, coaching youth sports and family getaways to Cape Cod, Tully joined ICON International in January 2005 as vice president. He was named to his present role in September 2021.

“I was drawn to ICON for the opportunity to become involved in all areas of the real estate transaction and ownership process.” Tully says. “I knew it would make me a more well-rounded real estate professional. It’s also been challenging since no two transactions are the same.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. IV 2022 Edition here.

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