Lawyers of the Year 2021: Ana Lazo Tenzer

Patrick Shelby

Ana Lazo Tenzer, a partner at Hogan Lovells’ Denver office, is a commercial real estate finance lawyer and the firm’s co-leader. She helps the firm successfully navigate complex real estate transactions, including all types of finance, joint venture transactions, private equity acquisitions and dispositions and developments.

Since 2013, Tenzer has been recognized by Best Lawyers for her real estate law expertise. In 2021, her practice focused on restructuring debt on troubled assets throughout the U.S.

A print of a lighthouse sits on top of a file cabinet in Tenzer’s office. The beacon is illuminated against a distressed sky with the words “NYU Law” stamped above. Like the lighthouse, Tenzer offers steadfast guidance to her clients, using her wealth of knowledge and dynamic perspective to secure strategic and timely solutions.

“Different classes of real estate across the country, like office[s], are going to be hard hit and we’ve done a lot of extensions, a lot of sales for clients and repositioning of assets,” Tenzer said. “You can actually do some good in the commercial context when you’re trying to help everyone get to a place where you’re not taking anyone’s property and you’re helping them to get to the finish line.”

Even as the economy begins to recover, it’s still an extremely difficult period for commercial development, especially for new hotel constructions that commenced at the beginning of the pandemic, which were very hard hit, according to Tenzer.  

“Even though construction workers were essential workers and a lot of construction continued during the pandemic, everything costs more. Everything took more time and, as a result, you had a lot of construction projects that were in need of rescue capital,” Tenzer said.

The firm’s client lenders tried very hard not to foreclose, Tenzer said. She indicated that was not the case during the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, when there was not much communication between the parties compared to now.

Tenzer explained that she provided expert transaction knowledge and presented complex restructuring solutions of rescue funds on projects for a direct commercial real estate bridge lender based in Los Angeles and their borrowers to avoid lender foreclosure.

Three separate, first priority mortgage loans shared similar ownership structure and totaled $120 million. Initial project financing was secured by two to-be-built hotels and a historical building with amenities and retail components in Hollywood, California. 

Due to the pandemic’s effects on construction supply chain issues and hospitality and retail industry slowdowns, an additional $80 million in rescue capital was required. A new co-lender stepped in, issued a B note promissory loan and took a more active management role to complete the construction, Tenzer said.

The property owner assumed more mortgage debt and higher interest rates as part of the new deal but was grateful to keep the project moving forward, Tenzer noted. 

“And now one of those projects has been built and the other two are in good shape, and I was happy that no one was foreclosed upon,” Tenzer said.

The second project with that same client was extremely complicated and Tenzer restructured two of its cross-collateralized construction loans totaling about $120 million in 2020 and 2021. The developments are a to-be-built Hyatt hotel and an 18-hole signature Jack Nicklaus golf course and resort community with 22 estate lots and 52 villa lots in West Palm Beach, Florida.

“You feel bad for owners of real property [when] things like a pandemic or natural disasters hit [because] you know a lot of construction is out of their control. And so, once again, that has different levels of debt that we were able to work around,” Tenzer said.

Pandemic-related construction issues plagued the deal and forced construction to stop. “We’ve been able here at Hogan Lovells to bring several of our practice groups together to aid our client, the lender and the client’s affiliates in helping to restructure the debt,” said Tenzer. 

Tenzer and her colleagues recognized they could provide their professional and creative expertise to non-profit organizations and small business owners who were forced to close for months at a time during the pandemic. They contributed pro bono services to assist community neighbors in renegotiating their leases with landlords to stay afloat.

“You try to do what you can to feel good about that and then you give time to non-profits as well because it makes you feel good,” Tenzer said. “I tell our associates always to get involved in the community and try to make a difference.” 

Tenzer recently completed her first three-year term as a Judi’s House Board Member. Since 2002, the organization has provided comprehensive grief care to children and families with the mission statement that “no child should be alone in grief.”

The mission is heartfelt for Tenzer, who lost both parents by the age of 19 and understands how important wellness services are for bereaved youth and families. Judi’s House delivers free counseling and guidance programs on-site as well as in schools and throughout Metro Denver. 

“We are building in Aurora a new facility that will house both the Judi’s House, which provides all the counseling, and their research arm of Judi’s House, where they do research across the country,” Tenzer said. She added that data from psychologists indicates that untreated grief can result in possible drug use and criminal activity.

Tenzer said that over the past couple of years, the pandemic has helped shine a light on people confronting and being honest about their individual viewpoints and personal hardships on issues such as mental health, social injustices, racial equity and police brutality. 

“I think the pandemic has empowered people to open up more about things that need to be corrected and things that need to be talked about and not hidden away. And while we have to stay positive, a lot of advancements have been made, there is still a lot to do,” Tenzer stated.

EDITOR’S NOTE: this article has been updated to exclude client names.

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