You don't hire Jamie Pirrello unless you have big plans.
Pirrello is the Fort Myers finance chief who helped engineer the sale of First Home Builders of Florida to Hovnanian Enterprise at the peak of the market in August 2005. At the time, First Home was the largest homebuilder in Lee County, and Hovnanian agreed to pay $350 million for the company, though it ended up paying less than that because it didn't meet certain targets during the subsequent downturn.
Looking back, Pirrello doesn't gloat about the deal. “Who could've ever understood the downturn?” he says.
Recently, Pirrello joined BCB Homes, a Naples-based luxury homebuilder. The move raised eyebrows because of Pirrello's experience raising capital and generating transactions.
In his career, Pirrello has raised $1.5 billion in capital and has handled an equal amount in transactions. Most recently, Pirrello was division president of Sivage Homes in San Antonio, where he grew the company to become the fifth-largest builder in that market and the largest privately held one there.
For several years, Pirrello commuted weekly by air to San Antonio from Fort Myers. “I will probably lose my platinum status,” Pirrello chuckles.
The principals of Boran Craig Barber Engel, a commercial construction firm in Naples, formed BCB Homes three decades ago. The firm's current ownership acquired the company from the founders and they include Joe Smallwood, CEO, and Scott Weidle, chief operating officer. “Jamie's the first CFO,” says Weidle.
BCB Homes builds custom luxury homes from Marco Island to Sarasota, and it specializes in waterfront estates. It has 90 people on staff, including skilled tradesmen. No supervisor oversees more than two homes under construction at any given time.
The company builds about 20 homes a year and most range in size from 4,700 to 7,000 square feet. On average, a BCB home costs about $2.5 million. It builds on customers' lots. “We own no land and no model homes. We don't buy land,” Weidle says.
With the economic recovery under way, Weidle says BCB hired Pirrello to evaluate the market and help the company determine how to grow. It could grow geographically by increasing its presence in Sarasota, for example. “We have a lot of relationships with architects,” says Weidle.
Another option BCB may consider is to grow its business in the $700,000 to $2 million price range. Weidle says the market in that price range is potentially enormous.
But Weidle says BCB won't be dramatically changing its business model any time soon. “We want to grow it at a healthy rate,” he says. “We don't want to double the size of the company.”
Certainly, the competitive landscape isn't as significant as it was during the boom. “A lot of people have been weeded out,” Weidle says.
And that could give BCB room to grow.