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Joel Rietz
Joel Rietz

In-House Counsel 2021: Joel Rietz

The year 2020 was one many people won’t soon forget, but Joel Rietz probably has more reason than most to remember the year of the pandemic.

As general counsel for Minneapolis-based CSM Corp., Rietz handled all of the legal work involved in the largest real-estate transaction in the history of the Twin Cities. It was the $645 million sale of a portfolio of 59 commercial projects (occupied by 222 active businesses), which included over 5.7 million square feet of space in the Twin Cities and 1.3 million square feet of space in the Denver area.

In the deal, which closed April 9, 2020, Rietz’s team consisted solely of himself and two paralegals, Tracy Puchtel and Malee Johnson. The buyer, an affiliate of the New York-based Blackstone Group, was represented by the New York office of Simpson Thatcher, which had at least six veteran lawyers and many paralegals representing its interests.

Rietz is proud of his role, and the fact that the senior VP of the lead title company handling the transaction referred to him as “an army of one.”

“We were working night and day to make the deal happen,” Rietz said. “Six weeks before the deal closed, our office shut down, due to COVID.” The team also included a number of non-legal CSM employees, who “worked together to make it happen,” he said.

Rietz comes from a long line of attorneys, including his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and two brothers; the family owned a firm in his hometown of Owatonna. He also became interested in real estate at an early age, working for his father, who owned properties in Owatonna. “I loved doing deals,” he said.

After completing law school at the University of California-Berkeley, Rietz spent about 18 months working for a California real estate firm before deciding to return to Minnesota.

Rietz said CSM brings a long-term mindset to real estate. “When we buy or develop something we tend to hold on to it for a long time.”

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