Cushman retains key investment sales staff

By Adam Pincus | May 28, 2010 02:30PM

From left: Helen Hwang, Richard Baxter, Scott Latham, Ron Cohen and Jon Caplan

The high-profile departure of the four top investment sales brokers from Cushman & Wakefield to Jones Lang LaSalle made headlines earlier this month, but the beleaguered company was able to hold on to two key background players at the last minute, insiders said.

The Cushman team led by brokers Richard Baxter, Scott Latham, Yoron (Ron) Cohen and Jon Caplan, took most of their junior associates and support staff that make up the 11 people that jumped ship earlier this month. It was the second blow for the firm in eight months and leaves it with a skeletal presence in New York City, brokers said.

But Cushman was able to convince two key members of the investment group, broker Helen Hwang, and project manager Karen Wiedenmann, to stay. Both were among the most senior members of the team, focusing on institutional transactions.

Real estate insiders expect more poaching industry-wide in the months to come, as firms try to beef up their investment divisions.

Insiders credited Hwang with being a particularly important part of the former Cushman team, as the chief number cruncher who was also involved in sales and marketing. She and Wiedenmann worked on deals such as the sales of 200 Park Avenue and 666 Fifth Avenue.

“Some would tell you the words most uttered out of Ron or Rich’s mouth is ‘Helen!'” one industry insider said of Hwang. “Those are very valuable positions and are difficult to train [for]. And it can take a while to replace someone like that.”

Sources said the entire 13-person team was expected to go to JLL, but after the four lead brokers announced they would leave, Cushman convinced Hwang and Wiedenmann to remain.

Hwang, who had been a senior director, was promoted to an executive vice president. The investment sales group, which at its highpoint in 2007 had about 20 professionals, now is composed of just Hwang and Wiedenmann, an executive director. But Hwang said they were interviewing brokers to beef up the division.

She would not discuss the specifics of their decision to stay, but speaking on behalf of her and Wiedenmann, said, “After considering our options, we determined the best decision for Karen and my future was to remain at Cushman & Wakefield.” 

The departure of the four-person team came eight months after a trio of Cushman private-client brokers focusing on middle market properties, Yoav Oelsner, Charles Kingsley and Jon Epstein, left for Grubb & Ellis.

And more changes are likely to come. For example, the arrival of the four brokers at JLL may prompt the departure of one of that firm’s senior sales agents, Nat Rockett, sources said. He worked with the newly arrived team when they were together at Cushman but split from them five years ago to move to JLL. 

An industry source said he has been exploring his options with other firms.

JLL and the brokers at the firm either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.