Cushman & Wakefield’s acquisition of the local brokerage Massey Knakal Realty Services for a reported $100 million looks set to be the biggest shakeup in the local market this year. But it’s but by no means the only one.
The slew of mergers and acquisitions, including the sales of brokerage firms Studley and Cassidy Turley and listing sites Trulia and Apartments.com, flow from ready access to capital and the growth of the real estate market, insiders said.
The industry’s strength means firms have funds at the ready, and banks and private equity shops are willing to throw cash at buyers who want a piece of the action.
“Everyone is doing better,” said Joel Herskowitz, COO of the brokerage Lee & Associates NYC. “The buyers have more dollars to access, and there are more investors willing to put up money. And from the sellers’ perspective, what better time to sell anything than in a strong market?”
Why do these deals happen? Sometimes it’s because an owner wants to cash out, and other times it wants to expand its reach. Others have a goal of creating a bigger firm that can be monetized.
“Occasionally a firm will make a purchase to create a larger entity just for the sake of ultimately turning it around to sell the entity that was the buyer,” either through a public offering or an outright sale, Herskowitz said.
Cushman’s purchase of Massey Knakal, the Midtown-based firm with revenues of about $80 million and 200 employees led by Paul Massey and Robert Knakal, will have the largest impact on the local market. It will significantly expand the number of Cushman brokers in the city and reconfigure its business operations here.
The sale of Studley to the London-based Savills for $260 million will have less of an impact on New York, because Savills did not have as prominent a stake in the local market as Studley, led by Mitchell Steir.
In addition, TPG Capital, a private equity firm, acquired the brokerage DTZ for $1.1 billion, and has plans to purchase Cassidy Turley later this year. Both those firms have only a mid-sized presence in Manhattan, although the local Cassidy Turley office, led by Peter Hennessy, has roots stretching back several decades.
Another big national deal likely to have a small local impact was BGC Partners, the parent firm of Midtown-based Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, buying the investment brokerage network Apartment Realty Advisors for $110 million.
On the residential front, the most significant transaction was developer the Related Companies buying a 50 percent stake in the residential brokerage CORE, led by Shaun Osher.
The landscape of listings sites also saw major changes this year. Zillow purchased Trulia for $3.5 billion, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation purchased Move Inc., which owns Moving.com and Realtor.com, for $950 million. Earlier this year the commercial-focused listing database CoStar Group bought the listing site Apartments.com in April for $585 million.