Commercial real estate brokers Glenn Walsh and Lawrence A. Ruggieri are working this month from a temporary office at 800 Westchester Ave. in Rye Brook while their new office there is readied for occupancy. They’ll stay in the same RPW Group building from which they’ve worked on Westchester County office deals for several years at Cushman & Wakefield Inc. But the business cards they’ve handed out since January bear the logo of their former market rival, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank (NGKF).
“It’s musical chairs,” one longtime office broker said of the recent flurry of moves by some top brokers and their deal-making teams between the top agencies in the Westchester and Fairfield County, Conn. markets. The outbreak of shop-swapping has made historical relics of several still-standing leasing agent signs at office parks on the Platinum Mile and elsewhere in the county. And it left Cushman & Wakefield (C&W) without its core of senior brokers and a large share of its business in Westchester.
Brokers’ moves between firms are not uncommon – Walsh, for example, worked at CB Commercial Real Estate and did a 6-year stint at Newmark when it was a boutique regional firm before spending more than a decade at C&W. Still, he said, “In all my years in the industry, I’ve never seen movement quite like this right now, all the jumps, where everyone is switching shops.” He predicted more brokers’ moves would follow.
Walsh and Ruggieri switched companies with a third member of their former C&W team, Gregory V. Frisoli. Frisoli, formerly based in Connecticut at C&Ws Stamford office, joined Newmark’s Greenwich office as executive managing director. Walsh, a 25-year veteran of the Westchester market, became executive director of Newmark’s new office in Rye Brook.
Ruggieri, the team’s junior member, joins NGKF as senior managing director. “We’re like a married couple, we stick together,” Walsh said. Sticking together also is good for business. “What you’re selling your clients is your team,” he said. “It’s very difficult if you’re bifurcated.”
Cushman & Wakefield last fall lost another veteran office broker, Christopher B. O’Callaghan, who joined the Stamford office of Jones Lang LaSalle as managing director, strengthening the national firm’s bid to become a major player in the Westchester market. In January, Paul Kauffman, a former executive vice president at C&W’s Stamford office and 28-year veteran of the firm, also moved to Jones Lang LaSalle’s Stamford office as managing director.
At NGKF, the brokerage trio led by Walsh fills vacancies left by the move last September of Newmark’s Westchester team of brokers, led by Brian Carcaterra, to the Westchester and Fairfield office of CBRE Group Inc. in Stamford. Switching shops with Carcaterra, now senior vice president at CBRE, were Michael McCall, CBRE vice president, and senior associate Peter Hansen.
McCall, a broker for about seven years, said Newmark Knight’s purchase in 2011 by BGC Partners Inc., the publicly traded global brokerage company that sprang from and shares a CEO with Cantor Fitzgerald, sparked the brokers’ eventual move to CBRE. When the new owner required employees to sign a five-year employment contract, the NGKF brokers decided “to explore options before rushing that commitment to them for the foreseeable future. That really made us think long and hard about our futures.” At CBRE, McCall saw “an opportunity to work with the biggest and best platform.”
“I don’t want to say it caused a domino effect,” he said of his team’s move, “but it certainly shook up the marketplace.”
For Frisoli and Walsh, BGC’s ownership made a move to NGKF attractive for both them and their clients. “We looked at the model that Newmark is using and we thought it offered us a wider array (of services) that we could offer to our clients,” said Walsh.
Frisoli pointed to BGC’s access to the capital resources of Cantor Fitzgerald’s businesses, which include Cantor Commercial Real Estate, a leading lender last year in commercial mortgage-backed securities. “Our clients that own buildings, that are selling a building and refinancing buildings, we’re able to offer them access to capital within that group,” he said.
Walsh said NGKF CEO Barry Gosin is a Westchester resident. “He’s got a very active interest in making this a successful office. So getting access to the top is not a bad thing.”
Gosin and other principals at NGKF have met with a premier client of Walsh, Robert P. Weisz, head of RPW Group Inc. Weisz said he is looking to expand the RPW portfolio with building purchases in Connecticut and New Jersey. As a BGC company, NGKF “will be very helpful to us, with having pretty much a complete package as a one-stop shop.”
“It’s a very large company, but it still has the entrepreneurial spirit,” said Weisz.
In the real estate industry, “I believe that the relationship is with individuals certainly more than with an institution. My relationship with Glenn Walsh is probably the longest in the industry. We’ve been doing business for 25 years.”
When clients are represented by larger agencies, said McCall, “Sometimes it’s going to be a flip of the coin whether they stay with you or have an allegiance to the firm.”
Carcaterra’s team has landed one of its premier clients, Normandy Real Estate Partners and its 1.5 million-square-foot office park portfolio at The Exchange, with CBRE. Normandy terminated its contract with NGKF as exclusive leasing agent for its Harrison and White Plains properties and took proposals from both NGKF and CBRE. CBRE signs soon will replace the outdated NGKF signs at Normandy’s office parks, McCall said.
The wave of brokers’ moves could force landlords to make moves of their own in their wake, McCall said. “With the shakeup in the marketplace, a lot of owners have to take a step back and see who’s representing them and conflicts of interest,” he said.