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Commercial real estate profile: Ray Sandelli managing partner, CRE Consultants, Fort Myers

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  • | 11:00 a.m. June 19, 2015
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Ray Sandelli managing partner, CRE Consultants, Fort Myers
When Ray Sandelli got into the commercial real estate business after years as a pilot for the U.S. Navy and the famed Blue Angels, he found sales, especially cold calling potential clients, to be especially hard.

It wasn't until a mentor in the Seattle brokerage office of what became CBRE Inc. convinced him that both the military and the business world were service-oriented that he began to see similarities between the two disparate fields and excel.

In the more than three decades since, Sandelli has combined an ever-growing body of experience with a humility forged by a tight-knit Italian family in his native New Jersey to become one of the Gulf Coast's most sought after real estate professionals.

These days, as managing partner for CRE Consultants, a Fort Myers-based commercial sales and brokerage firm that also has offices in Naples and Stuart, Sandelli at 66 has come full circle: He provides advice, connections and vast real estate knowledge to the firm's 15 agents and 35 other staffers — without the pressure of having to sell.

“It's important that I don't compete with our sales people, because that way I can make calls and meet people and develop business for the long-term good of our clients and the firm,” says Sandelli.

It almost didn't happen, though. Three years ago, when commercial brokerage firm CBRE — for which he managed offices throughout Florida from a base in Tampa — went public and a brother five years his junior began talking about his own retirement, Sandelli took the proceeds of company stock he'd accrued and stopped working.

In addition to his years of work in the Tampa market, during which he specialized in distressed asset workouts, management and dispositions, Sandelli left behind stints as head of the city's Downtown Partnership and the Rotary Club, as well as a graduate teaching gig at the University of Florida.

He spent that summer at a beach home he owns in New Jersey, but retirement didn't take. When a CRE partner called late in 2012 about the managing partner job, Sandelli and his wife rented a house and committed to Fort Myers for a year. After a few months, they found they really liked it.

Since then, Sandelli has settled in the Fort Myers area, helped CRE attract institutional clients like Steelbridge Corp. and AIG and left a mark on the business community at large in the same way he did in Tampa.

“It's been very enriching for me to learn from his experience,” says Bruce Register, director of Collier County's economic development office, who got to know Sandelli when he worked in a similar role from 1997 to 2012 in Hillsborough County.

“And he leads by example,” Register added. “Ray's very analytical, he's able to look at the big picture, and his willingness to share his knowledge has been exemplary. I've found him to be very supportive.”

Sandelli, for his part, downplays his own role. He says that whatever success he's had has stemmed largely from maintaining personal integrity and humility.

“I always understand that I am not the smartest guy in the room,” Sandelli says. “And to me, business has always been about 'we' and not 'I.' When you love where you live, you're going to engage more fully in your community and become part of the fabric of the community and want to contribute more to it. I encourage people to think about that.”


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