Tom Dennard has helped build Charlotte-based Grandbridge Real Estate Capital into a major commercial real estate company with 21 offices in 16 states that provides loans, servicing and real estate portfolio management. He is retiring as CEO in September, 19 years after BB&T bought his predecessor company, Laureate Capital. Matt Rocco will take Dennard’s job as CEO of the company, which employs 275.
We talked with Dennard about his career. Comments were edited for clarity.
When did you start in the industry?
I started in February 1976 with Wachovia Mortgage Corp.’s income-property division in Winston-Salem.
When did you decide to focus on commercial mortgage banking?
Within the first year of my training with Wachovia.
You later helped start another mortgage banker, right?
Yes I was a co-founder of Laureate Capital, a start-up company sponsored by Columbia, S.C.-based Resource Bancshares that was created from the former mortgage banking subsidiary of Rhode Island-based Fleet National Bank. BB&T bought Laureate in 2000 due to a strategic repositioning of operating companies wholly owned by Resource Bancshares.
Tell us about the company’s growth.
When Laureate was founded in 1994, it started with no loan servicing or origination platform. When we sold to BB&T in 2000, we serviced just under $4 billion in commercial and multifamily loans. From 2000 to 2007, we grew our loan servicing portfolio to $10 billion. When we acquired Collateral Real Estate Capital in 2007, the portfolio grew to $20 billion. (Now, the company services $29 billion in loans.)
How did your company handle the 2007-09 real estate depression?
We actually were in an expansion mode and doubled the size of the company as measured by loan servicing and origination capacity with the acquisition of Collateral.
How have you taken advantage of soaring real estate values in the last five or so years?
Many of our borrowers have capitalized on favorable refinance terms — placed or principled by our company — available in the marketplace due to the improved values of their properties.
How has the affiliation with BB&T helped your company?
The access to the holding company balance sheet has provided us the horsepower to support our strategic growth initiatives in the expansion of our loan delivery network and has also provided us the capability to provide on balance sheet niche debt products to our customers.
Have North Carolina been a good place to run the business?
Being headquartered in Charlotte has been an excellent environment for attracting great associates and to reach the key markets we operate in throughout the country via the Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Do you have any post-retirement plans?
For the last 10 years I have been weekly commuting from the greater Charleston area to Charlotte. I am looking forward to not having that weekly commute and spending time reacquainting myself with my family and friends, as well as enjoying the wonderful amenities afforded those living in the Lowcountry. I have made some wonderful friends in this industry … who knows where that will lead?