No blarney: Kid who grew up fond of Ireland now helps run a big office there – The Boston Globe

JD Sherman

Chris Morris for The Boston Globe

JD Sherman

With all four grandparents hailing from Ireland,
JD Sherman grew up with an affinity for the old country. Still, he had no way of knowing he would someday run a company, HubSpot, that will soon employ more than 1,000 people there.

The Cambridge marketing company is poised to do just that, with a new lease for 112,000 square feet on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin. The Irish capital is already home to HubSpot’s second-largest operation, with roughly 600 people working out of 63,000 square feet across the River Liffey.

Sherman (below) says that number is likely to grow to at least 1,400 during the next several years. (The headquarters team in Cambridge has also been growing, from 680 at the time of HubSpot’s 2014 IPO to nearly 1,700 today.)

The company opened its Dublin office in January 2013, soon after Sherman joined the firm from Akamai Technologies to work alongside chief executive Brian Halligan. The goal in Dublin was to establish a European base.

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Sherman’s Irish descent had little to do with the choice. Instead, HubSpot execs watched similar companies — Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the like – opening there to chase tech talent.

“We saw it as a good indication that the kind of skills we are looking for, technical skills, we would be able to find them in the Dublin area,” Sherman says. “There’s a good mix of the startup culture as well as some of the bigger tech firms. It tends to attract talent from the rest of Europe.”

HubSpot has quickly become a global player in the past three years, establishing smaller offices in Singapore, Tokyo, Bogota, Berlin, and Sydney. (Paris is coming, too, in 2019.) HubSpot now sells its marketing software in five languages other than English.

With Brexit taking London out of the mix, Dublin’s prominence in the European Union is expected to rise. That wasn’t really a factor, though, in HubSpot’s decision to expand there. But the number of direct flights out of Logan International Airport to Dublin certainly helped.

Sherman likes Dublin’s “small city” feel. He gets back to Ireland three or four times a year. Fortunately for him, he can do something most Irish Americans can’t: He can expense his airplane tickets to the homeland. — JON CHESTO

Chief reschedules his retirement

Destination XL might want to hold off on that retirement party for David Levin.

The CEO of the Canton-based men’s clothing chain had planned to pack it in on Jan. 1. But the company still hasn’t found his replacement. In fact, Destination XL just has dumped its search firm and hired a new one.

As a result, the company’s board has drawn up an agreement that could keep Levin in the role for $200,000 a month, but no less than a total of $800,000, as acting CEO through April 30 — or until a new chief executive is brought on board.

The move to replace the headhunters at Heidrick & Struggles with Russell Reynolds didn’t come out of the blue. One of the company’s largest shareholders, Glenn Krevlin of Glenhill Advisors, had been kvetching about the search process. In September, he wrote about how he was upset the board had excluded him and wasn’t fully checking with candidates’ previous employers. Krevlin implied he could sue if the board didn’t fire Heidrick & Struggles and restart the seach.

Levin didn’t mention Krevlin on his most recent earnings call, on Nov. 30. One analyst inquired about the CEO hunt and the reasons for the reset. Levin downplayed the delays.

“This is a big deal for us and we wanted to find the best candidate we possibly can,” Levin said. “We just felt that it was time to move on and start with a new search firm. It happens.” — JON CHESTO

Hunt for a new CEO will start over

The transition from the Meredith & Grew days at Colliers International’s local office continues as three key longtime leaders step back from their management roles to focus more on client service and philanthropic work.

A big changing of the guard is underway at 160 Federal St., where Colliers employs about 135 people. Colliers just promoted David Goodhue from executive vice president to executive managing director and Boston market leader, making him the new boss overseeing day-to-day operations.

Meanwhile, three heavyweights in Boston’s commercial real estate circles are stepping out of management: cochairmen Tom Hynes and Kevin Phelan and president Jim Elcock. Hynes was also the office’s CEO. Toronto-based Colliers is eliminating the CEO and president titles in Boston, in part to make the office more consistent with others in its global network. (Hynes and Phelan remain cochairmen in Boston.)

The leadership shift is the latest change following a 2007 deal in which Colliers’ former parent company acquired an 80 percent stake in Meredith & Grew, ending 132 years of local control. Colliers phased out the storied Meredith & Grew name four years later.

As the new office leader in Boston, Goodhue wants to focus on diversity in his recruitment efforts, he says, finding people with different backgrounds and different approaches.

He also pledged to continue the office’s open culture: Employees, he says, should feel free to speak up and to take risks.

The big question facing Colliers and the rest of the industry: When is the red-hot commercial real estate market in Boston going to start cooling? Brokers and investors are increasingly watchful for signs of a coming recession.

Neither Hynes nor Goodhue sound worried about Boston’s prospects, though. Investment money continues to flow into the city from around the globe. Its strengths in higher education and health care should help insulate it, Hynes says, and downtown’s proximity to Logan Airport continues to be a big selling point for employers looking to relocate here.

“We’ve been in a good run for a long time,” Goodhue says. “When the dip comes, there’s no better place to be, in my mind, than Boston.” — JON CHESTO

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E-mail Bold Types at boldtypes@globe.com.


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