UPDATED, Oct. 15, 10:20 a.m.: Julien Studley, legendary real estate broker and founder of the eponymous commercial brokerage, died Monday night at the age of 88, a spokesperson confirmed.
In conversations with The Real Deal, friends and colleagues remembered him as a visionary who changed New York’s commercial real estate industry, all with a pleasant and unpretentious demeanor.
“This is a guy who transformed the business in many ways into what it is today,” said Bruce Mosler, chairman of global brokerage at Cushman & Wakefield. “Julien had the ability to read the business and excel and still keep the trust of his colleagues – that’s a fairly tall order.”
Studley was born Julien Joseph Stuckgold in Brussels in 1927. In 1940, his family fled his home country as the German army invaded, crossing the French border overnight.
“We decided the Germans were moving quickly and crossed the French border with a Boy Scout patch I had posted on the car. They thought it was a pass,” Studley told TRD in a “Closing” interview in 2008. From southern France, Studley’s family fled to Cuba “with $50 rolled up in a pen.” At the age of 16, Studley finally came to New York, where his uncle had been living.
He began working at real estate firm Brett, Wyckoff, Potter & Hamilton, cutting diamonds at night to supplement his income. In 1954, Studley founded Julien J. Studley Inc. and turned it into one of New York’s leading commercial real estate brokerages over the following decades.
“If you put this guy in a lineup he would be the last person I would have thought put the company together that he built,” said Woody Heller, an executive managing director at Savills Studley who began working at the company before Julien Studley sold the firm in 2002.
“He had a quiet personality and a subtle presence and didn’t seem like an enterprise builder. All those characteristics were part of what I found so impressive about him,” Heller added.
“Julien wanted me to see what was around the corner. Not just what was straight ahead,” said Kevin Salmon, a managing partner at Khizer Salmon Real Estate Professionals who closely worked with Julien Studley. “In 2008 Julien told me to call every Borders Books to see if we could buy their lease because he didn’t see them sustaining. Borders went dark in 2011. He saw borders opportunity from around the corner as he did with many of his holdings.”
In 2002, Studley sold his shares in the firm to younger associates and founded Studley New Vista Associates, which manages properties owned by him and his associates. He also served as the chairman of the board of trustees of the New School. Studley eventually merged with London-based brokerage Savills last year, becoming Savills Studley. The brokerage specializes in representing tenants in office leasing transactions, as well as a large investment sales operation.
“We, and indeed the entire industry, would not be where we are today if it were not for him,” Savills Studley’s CEO Mitchell Steir and President Michael Colacino said in a statement. “We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Jane and his children and grandchildren. Julien’s contributions to the industry and to New York City will not be forgotten.”
According to sources, a memorial service for Julien Studley will be held Friday, Oct. 16, at 10 a.m. at the Riverside Memorial Chapel at 180 West 76th Street.