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Forbes

Why DeVono Is Disrupting The Status Quo For London's Business Tenants

London is one of the world’s most desirable business locations. It’s also one of the most expensive, and arguably, a place where a huge conflict of interest exists that frequently puts the business tenant at a disadvantage.

Last year almost a fifth of the city’s commercial lettings were handled by agents
representing both the landlord and the prospective tenant within the same transaction.

It’s been a bone of contention for business owners in the capital for years, and has
finally prompted a formal research project into the situation at the University of Leeds.

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However, one team of property entrepreneurs have been disrupting this commercial
property status quo for over a decade. Their business DeVono has been pioneering
tenant-only commercial property representation in London and going against the grain of all other property consultants who represent landlords.

It was 2003, boom time for London’s office market, when independent property agents Adam Landau, Robert Leigh and Luke Philpott teamed up to fill a crucial gap they had spotted in the lettings market; the need for tenants’ rights to be represented and protected.

“Like most start-ups we began in a very humble setting – a shared office on a bank of four desks in the deepest darkest corner of an office block on Cork Street in Mayfair,
London,” said Landau.

Armed with just a £30,000 bank loan, which, incidentally, they repaid within four
months, they set about challenging the commercial property industry with the vision of only ever representing commercial real estate occupiers.

They were going against a tide of how the industry had always operated.

Landau says: “The property community thought we were quite literally mad and could not get their heads around why we would want to rule out the option of working with
landlords and enjoying stable income.”

It was only when the name DeVono started appearing multiple times on the viewing
schedules for growing numbers of buildings that the medium and large size brokers
started taking notice.

“They couldn’t understand how we were representing so many businesses and were in many ways inventing a new sector within real estate in the United Kingdom.”

The fact was they had some blue chip clients on board; internationally recognisable
names like such as Red Bull, HP, Manchester United and Toshiba that brought them
gravitas and provided them with a platform for rapid growth.

A decade on DeVono is now a leading office finder for London businesses, having advised on one in every five office acquisitions in London in the last eight years.

The company has grown organically since its inception, and employs a team of 30 and turns over around £5 million annually.

The company also launched a retail and leisure division under the same tenant-only
proposition, and recently uncovered a story of foul play between landlords and tenants, which recently made international news in London’s Chinatown.

Last year DeVono moved into the international real estate arena by becoming the UK
office of Cresa the US-based international pioneer of tenant-only representation with a global reach of over 65 offices.

Through DeVono’s involvement, Cresa is now expanding its European operations with
several new offices recently opened in Belgium, Holland and Hungary and many more
expected over the next 18 months.

And things may finally be on the verge of change in the commercial property
sector. Earlier this year Leeds University announced the launch of its research project to understand and evaluate the degree of ‘conflict of interest’ within commercial property sector.

It aims to establish whether commercial occupiers and landlords are being treated
equally within the real estate cycle.

Project lead Professor Gerard McCormack said: “As it stands there are only a miniscule number of commercial property agencies operating a ‘conflict free’ proposition for either occupiers or landlords.

“The legal and finance industries seem to be clearly regulated and lead the way in
transparency, so it’s time we evaluated whether commercial property, which affects all businesses, needs to follow suit.”

Meanwhile, DeVono marches on.
 
“We still see ourselves as only being at around 30% of our longer term potential in size and scale,” says Landau. “Our aim is to keep challenging the norm, and going above and beyond in terms of the customer service and the advice we provide to commercial tenants who are the lifeblood of every landlord.”

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