Mary Sullivan retiring after $10 billion in sales, 35 years

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Mary Sullivan is retiring.

Sullivan is the most successful woman commercial real estate broker in Denver’s history.

Sullivan, as an individual and part of teams, sold more than $10 billion in commercial real estate over 35 years.

Sullivan

Mary Sullivan, the most successful woman commercial real estate broker in Denver’s history, is retiring after 35 years and $10 billion-plus in sales.

Mary Sullivan, by far the most successful woman commercial real estate broker in Denver’s history, is retiring.

Sullivan, a top investment broker at the Denver office of Holliday Fenoglio Fowler L.P., sold more than $10 billion in offices, retail and other investment properties during her 35 years in the business. Indeed, that kind of dollar volume, as an individual and a member of a team, makes her one of the top commercial real estate brokers in Denver’s history, among men, too.

“Ten billion is a conservative estimate,” Sullivan told Denver Real Estate Watch on Sunday.

Indeed, in 2007, she was part of a team at CB Richard Ellis (now CBRE), which sold five downtown Denver office buildings, including the Tabor Center, for $770 million.

That transaction is still the largest single commercial transaction in Colorado.

“That year alone, we had $1.6 billion in transactions,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan began her career in 1981 at Coldwell Banker Commercial (now CBRE).

During her career, she also worked at Trammell Crow, Cushman Realty, Cushman & Wakefield, back to CBRE, and Jones Lang LaSalle, ending her career at HFF, where she worked with partner John Jugl.

In a memo that she sent to clients over the weekend, she had this to say: “Over the past six years I have thoroughly enjoyed being partners with John Jugl and am grateful to the amazing support team we have had the privilege to work with. I also feel fortunate to have made HFF my last stop along the way.”

She plans to officially retire when they close the sale of the Cascades, a 348,760-square-foot office building at 6300 S. Syracuse Way in Centennial.

That deal is scheduled to close by the end of October.

Earlier this year, she and Jugl sold Clayton Lane in Cherry Creek for $170 million. That marked the second time that Sullivan had sold the Cherry Creek North gateway site, which is anchored by Denver’s flagship Whole Foods.

They also sold Panorama Corporate Place along the southeast corner for $190 million earlier this year.

“That was the second time I sold Panorama,” Sullivan said.

“I also once sold a 21-property portfolio in 12 states for about a quarter of a billion dollars,” she said.

Sullivan and her late husband, the beloved Sherman Miller, first started talking about retiring after their daughter Ralsey, had finished her freshmen year in college.

That deadline has passed, but her timetable changed after Miller died after a long battle with prostate cancer. Mr. Miller was the executive director for the CU Real Estate Center at the Leeds School in Boulder when he died. Thousands of people packed his funeral.

“When Sherman passed away in April 2015, everyone said don’t do anything for a year, so I thought I would retire in April 2016,” Sullivan said.

Yet, being extremely busy, there never seemed to be a good time to call it quits.

She started to slow down after the 1-year anniversary of her husband’s death.

“I realized in 35 years, I had no time for daytime hiking, or bridge or tennis or bike rides,” she said.

“Girlfriends would not insert me into their social network,”

She recently joked with Ralsey about “imagine making new friends at my age.”

Sullivan

Mary Sullivan loves all outdoor activities.

Sullivan went to work at CBRE at a time when there were few women in the commercial real estate industry.

At the time, sexism was fairly common.

“I can’t tell you how many times I would come from a beach vacation and guys would ask to see my tan line,” said Sullivan, who would respond with a quick retort to put them in their place.

When she first began her career, making cold calls, men around her would take bets on how long she would survive in the industry.

“The best revenge is that I buried all of them,” as far as longevity and success, she said.

She hopes that having been a “trailblazer,” as a woman in what had been a good ol’boy club will serve as a role model for women thinking of entering the business.

“I really hope part of my legacy that I have left behind is you can maintain your femininity and do your business in an honest and straightforward way and have integrity in this business,” she said.

“Having been a very successful woman in what is still a male-dominated business, I hope will be an inspiration and beacon of hope for other women,” Sullivan said.

She said she doesn’t know why more women don’t choose commercial real estate as a career.

“I think women can be so successful in this business,” said Sullivan, who holds accounting and finance degrees from the University of Colorado.

“One of the reasons I got into this business back in 1981, was that it was very difficult to break into the corporate world. You needed a mentor and the mentor was always a man. I figured if I was only paid a commission and I worked on big dollar deals, you would be rewarded for your efforts and no one could hold you back.”

She is looking forward to the next chapter of her life.

“I loved the commercial real estate industry, but there are other things in life I am passionate about, like getting on my road bike, fishing, skiing, hiking and snowshoeing.”

Her only regret is that she won’t be spending her retirement with Sherman.

“Sherman and I were such a great team in life and love,” Sullivan said.

“I just wish Sherman was at my side.”

 Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com. DenverRealEstateWatch.com is sponsored by 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.

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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for GlobeSt.com, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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