Daniel Murphy is calling it quits after almost a half-century in the commercial real estate world.
“It is kind of bitter sweet, as you can imagine,” Murphy, a senior principal of Denver-based Continuum Partners told me on Monday afternoon.
“I turned 70 in May. It is just time. It is just time.”
Murphy joined Mark Falcone when he first launched Continuum Partners in 1998. Since then, Continuum has changed the urban fabric of Denver and first-ring suburbs such as Lakewood, with a couple billions of dollars in high-profile developments including Belmar, Bradburn Village and the redevelopment of Union Station.
Murphy, who had never been to Denver until he joined Continuum and spent his first 18 months commuting between Denver and his hometown of Syracuse, relationship with Falcone pre-dates Denver and Continuum.
“I have literally known Dan for most of my life,” according to Falcone.
Indeed, Murphy went to work for Mike Falcone’s Syracuse-based company, Pioneer Development, in 1977, a decade before Mark joined the family business after he graduated from college.
And before Mike Falcone launched Pioneer Development, he had gotten his start in real estate by working for Murphy’s father, Robert “Ty” Murphy.
“I am fortunate to have done this for long,” Murphy said. “It has been wonderful working with Mark and his dad and having this continuity.”
At Continuum, Murphy was responsible for overseeing a diverse range of projects, directing all office leasing and development and serving as a member of the Executive Committee. The committee called the shots on all critical development, operational, financing and disposition strategies.
He also teaches a graduate course on real estate development at the University of Notre Dame.
“One of the things I tell the kids is that I think that it is important, no matter what business you go into, is to find a passion for a certain aspect of the business,” Murphy said.
For him, his passion has always been deal making.
And unlike some developers, to him deal making is not a zero sum game, in which for him to win, the other side must lose.
“It’s just the opposite for me,” Murphy said. “What I like most about deal making is finding common ground between the parties and bringing them together.
His first deal of any substance was consummated in 1972, when he was working for his dad. He put together a 30,000-square-foot, 30-year lease for the regional headquarters in Syracuse for Royal Globe Insurance.
The office building was developed by Buffalo-based Benderson Development Co., one of the nation’s largest privately held development companies
The deal was significant because it introduced Murphy to Jack Chesbro, a founder of Benderson, who became “my lifelong mentor,” Murphy said.
Over the next few years, Murphy would work on a number of deals with Chesbro.
“Early on, Chase Manhattan was going to expand into upstate New York and I just begged my way into a meeting with them. I needed somebody to vouch for me and Mr. Chesbro told them I was the smarted kid he had ever met in his life. That was good enough for Chase Manhattan. I did a number of deals with Mr. Chesbro, all of them on a handshake.”
Sometimes, they went up against Mike Falcone.
“We did quite well competing against Mike and he got to know me after a few deals,” Murphy recalled.
When Mark Falcone joined his father’s firm, there was no need for an introduction.
“My sister used to be Mark’s baby sitter,” Murphy said.
Murphy ran the office division and Mark ran the retail division, “so we didn’t have a lot of day-to-day interaction,” Murphy said.
And one point, the firm had 100 employees. “Our world was Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. Mark started developing shopping centers and we went as far west as Michigan and all of New England.”
Mark Falcone wanted to develop mixed-use projects and there was no market for those in upstate New York, so he moved to Denver.
“Mark moved to Denver in 1997. My wife Michelle and I had just bought a brand new home in a suburb of Syracuse. In late 1997 or early 1998, Mark called me and said he was going to do this mixed-use building on the 16th Street Mall and asked if I wanted to be his partner on it.”
Murphy had travelled a lot to New York City, Boston, throughout New England and Chicago.
But no city ever spoke to him the way Denver did.
“The day I stepped foot in Denver, it just felt like home,” Murphy said.
At the time, they had two young sons, age 3 and 5, and he thought Denver would be a better place for them to grow up than Syracuse.
“I always felt like I dreamed a little too small,” Murphy said. “My vision of the world, my ambitions, were kind of framed by Syracuse. I came from a very middle class family. I saw moving to Denver as really an opportunity for the boys to be exposed to more than I had and and be able to dream bigger dreams than I dreamed.”
Of the six children in his blended family, only one, Sean, 23, followed him into real estate. Sean is an analyst at Legend Partners after having served as an intern for superstar brokers Mike Winn and Tim Richey at CBRE.
While Thursday is his official retirement date, he still has a few things to finish up at Continuum.
And Murphy has “too many friends at Continuum for us to let him wander off completely,” according to Falcone.
Falcone noted that over the decades Murphy has served not only as a business partner but as “my friend and brother and even my father at times. He will remain of counsel to the company in his retirement and we will relish every moment of his attention.”
Murphy also expects to spend more time mentoring young people, both at Notre Dame and possibly the University of Colorado, the University of Denver and NAIOP.
“My wife and I both love to ski and scuba dive. I never skied until I was 53 and never scuba dived until I was 65.”
And except for Canada and the Caribbean, he has never been out of the country.
“We have never been to Europe,” so some international travel will surely be on his retirement dance card.
Near the end of our conversation, he looped back to one of his early talking point.
“I want to finish one thought. I told you that when I teach that graduate class on developing at Notre Dame I tell the young kids you have to have passion. For me, deal making has always been my passion. One of the reasons I know now it is time for me to retire is that I am very content in letting go of that passion.”
Although he has children and grandchildren on the East Coast, he will not be saying goodbye to his adopted city.
“Denver will always be our home.”