James-Underhill-293x300James M. Underhill has been named chief executive officer of Cresa, the world’s largest commercial real estate firm focused solely on advising tenants and occupiers of space. 

Setting a bold objective of doubling Cresa’s staff and revenue within five years, Underhill will focus on the firm’s growth in key domestic and global markets, bolstering capabilities in select industry sectors, and enhancing the firm’s integrated service lines and specialty practices.  He is committed to “furthering the firm’s leadership as an innovator and thought leader in the tenant advisory space.” 

Underhill, who will be based in Cresa’s Washington, D.C., office, replaces Richard M. Rhodes, who became Cresa’s interim CEO in 2015. Rhodes continues to serve on the Executive Committee and the firm’s Board of Directors, along with being a Managing Principal of Cresa Washington DC.

Most recently, Underhill was Strategic Advisor on Cresa’s Board of Directors. Before that, he was CEO of the Americas at Cushman & Wakefield, the world’s largest, full-service, privately held real estate services firm.  Previously, he was Founder and President of The Staubach Company – Northeast, which grew to become the company’s largest region before its sale to Jones Lang LaSalle in 2008. 

“This is a terrific opportunity to help Cresa continue its global expansion,” said Underhill.  “I have deep respect for Cresa’s business model – particularly its singular focus on being to best tenant advisory firm in the world. This drives the firm’s thought leadership initiatives and consulting orientation, and it leads to negotiating the best outcomes for clients – free of the conflicts that compromise most traditional real estate firms.”  As an example of the firm’s commitment to consulting excellence, Underhill cited Cresa’s recent addition of Honor Consulting to the Cresa Consulting Group, which provides operational consulting to Cresa clients worldwide.

“Jim is the ideal choice for us at this time,” said Cresa Chairman Matt Feeney. “His hiring is the next step in our strategic plan, and working with Jim as an advisor to our board gave us the ability to truly evaluate the fit.  During this period, it became clear that Jim was the right person to lead our global growth, investment, and innovation.”

According to Feeney, Underhill is “culturally a great match for Cresa,” since he has deep roots in tenant advocacy as well as experience growing enterprises across international geographies. 

“Jim embraces our partnership model and our culture of 100% employee ownership,” said Feeney.  “He is a true thought leader who knows our business and what it takes to enhance our services and expand our platform. Our business is transforming, and having a leader who embraces change and innovation is critical. We are thrilled to have him joining the firm.” 

Underhill, a resident of the District of Columbia, received his MBA degree from Harvard Business School and has taught at Harvard College.  He holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration and Accounting from Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA, where he recently served on the Williams School Board.    

Underhill has served on the boards of numerous charitable organizations, including Junior Achievement, the Wolf Trap Foundation of the Performing Arts, Neediest Kids, the National Rehabilitation Hospital, and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. He is a member of the World Presidents Organization and the Economic Club of Washington, and he was a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.    

Cresa is the world’s largest tenant-only commercial real estate firm. In representing tenants exclusively—no landlords or developers—Cresa provides unbiased, conflict-free advice. Its integrated services cover every aspect of a real estate assignment, including strategic planning, employee demographics, workplace strategy, site selection, incentives negotiation, market research, transaction management, project financing, project management, portfolio management, and relocation services. Cresa offers clients customized solutions with more than 60 offices in 75 markets worldwide.