Advanced Magazine Publishers’ lease of 45,635 square feet of space at Twenty Westport Road in Wilton has been recognized as Fairfield County’s top lease transaction of the year.

While 2003 didn’t result in record numbers of transactions in the typically vibrant Fairfield/Westchester County area, one large, complex deal in Wilton stands out as the area’s top transaction of the year.

The New York City/Westchester County/Fairfield County chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties recently honored Louis Dreyfus Property Group and Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund, or TIAA-CREF, for negotiating the top lease transaction in Fairfield County in 2003.

NAIOP recognized Louis Dreyfus and TIAA-CREF for the 45,635-square-foot lease signed by Advance Magazine Publishers at Twenty Westport Road, a 335,000-square-foot office complex in Wilton. The award was presented at NAIOP’s annual awards gala held on Nov. 11 at the Sky Club in Manhattan.

The lease transaction, which was announced earlier this year, concerned Golf Digest Cos., a division of Advanced Magazine Publishers and the publisher of Golf Digest magazine. At the time, the group was relocating its operations from Trumbull to Twenty Westport Road. The space leased by Golf Digest involved subleases from two tenants: 27,254 square feet of existing and unfinished space from PanAmSat Corp. and 18,382 square feet of space vacated by John W. Henry & Co.

“It was like a puzzle,” said Dean Shapiro of CB Richard Ellis in New Haven, whose team represented Advanced Magazine Publishers, “because there were just so many different parties there. In a deal this complicated, I think you have to get a sense of the objectives of each party as well as their issues. Like anything else, we had to try to find a solution that created an incentive for everyone involved. Fortunately, we figured that part out early in the game, but the process of implementation was a juggling act.”

Shapiro added, “We were working in numerous theaters simultaneously, knowing that at any one time, any failure of any piece could ruin the entire deal. We were playing one entity vs. another, figuring out the players we were dealing with and the dynamics between them. It was a feat, I can tell you.”

‘Moving Parts’

Shapiro said that looking back at his career, the Twenty Westport Road transaction is the one in which he takes the most pride.

He explained that the structure of the transaction included two subleases that were non-coterminous, which means that the subleases were set to run out at different times. That led to a direct deal with the landlord for an extension on the shorter of the two subleases. Along with that was “the whole non-disturbance negotiation for both subleases,” said Shapiro, which basically means that the tenants ensure their leases will be intact if the mortgagee transfers the title of the building during their tenure.

“There were three law firms involved, three brokerage firms and Teachers’ representatives. It was a huge juggling act,” said Shapiro.

When asked if other less-complex spaces were ever offered to Advanced Magazine Publishers, Shapiro remarked, “Believe me, there was space right across the street that was cheaper and would have been done in a month, as opposed to the six months it took us at Twenty Westport. But this space was far superior in their eyes, so we went for it. In the end, everybody was happy.”

David J. Friedman, northeast regional vice president of Louis Dreyfus Property Group, the manager and leasing agent for Twenty Westport Road, represented the building’s owner, TIAA-CREF.

“We are very honored to have been recognized by NAIOP for this prestigious award. The Advance Magazine Publishers lease was a creatively structured deal involving many individuals. We congratulate everyone involved in this important transaction for all their hard work,” said Friedman.

Others involved in the transaction included Shapiro, Robert Caruso and Steven Greenbush of CB Richard Ellis, who represented Advance Magazine Publishers. Kenneth Nordstrom, also of CB Richard Ellis, represented John W. Henry & Co., and Paul Kauffman of Cushman & Wakefield represented PanAmSat.

“I would say that it was complicated transaction that involved a tenant that desired to come into a building that had sublease and direct-lease space,” said Friedman. “Some of that space was built out, while some was raw space. At the same time, the subtenants wanted to get an extension of five years on their lease direct from the landlord.”

He added, “We had a lot of parties involved and this deal had a lot of moving parts. Add to that the size of the deal and its value, and you’ve got a very complex transaction. We had to keep a lot of people happy, but it all came together.” Friedman also credited the “great group of people” involved in the deal for achieving the positive outcome.

Twenty Westport Road is part of a larger park totaling 540,000 square feet; that park includes Ten Westport Road, a 200,000-square-foot facility. Louis Dreyfus developed the park in 2001 and sold it to TIAA-CREF. The park is located on a 60-acre campus in Wilton, and building amenities include health club, cafeteria and covered parking.