The Real Deal New York

Top broker poaches of 2016

From Haber to Harmon, we recap the year in resi, commercial agent moves
By Mark Maurer and E.B. Solomont | December 22, 2016 07:00AM

Clockwise from left: Doug Harmon, Adam Spies, Richard Baxter, Scott Latham, Toni Haber, Wendy Maitland and Brenda Powers

Commercial brokerages got a taste of the drama long associated with the residential world in 2016, when top New York investment sales brokers defected to rival firms.

And some of the year’s biggest moves — including Eastdil Secured’s Doug Harmon and Adam Spies’ jump to Cushman & Wakefield — are likely to make waves for months to come.

On the residential side, there were fewer marquee agents who jumped ship than in years past. But there were a few surprises, including Douglas Elliman stalwart Toni Haber’s move to Compass.

Here are the top broker shuffles of 2016:

Commercial

Doug Harmon and Adam Spies

In the poaching to end all poachings, Cushman & Wakefield in October snatched Eastdil Secured’s Doug Harmon and Adam Spies, the top investment sales brokers in New York City. Harmon and Spies joined Eastdil Secured in 1990s, and with the help of CEO Roy March, they elevated the brokerage to the top of the city’s investment sales food chain. Cushman named them chairmen of capital markets and gave them the room to grow a team. They quickly brought in three Eastdil brokers and Marcella Fasulo, who served directly under Darcy Stacom on CBRE’s investment sales team. It remains to be seen how this will impact Eastdil and Cushman in terms of business, but sources said they expect Massey Knakal Realty Services alumni at Cushman to seek opportunity elsewhere. There are looming signs: Cushman’s new guidelines that brokers with a $75 million-and-up deal hand it over to Harmon and Spies’ team, and Bob Knakal’s recent renegotiation of his Cushman contract, which could shorten his tenure by two years.

Richard Baxter, Yoron Cohen and Scott Latham

Just over a year after Colliers spun off from Toronto-based FirstService Corporation, the commercial brokerage made a serious push in New York investment sales with the hiring of JLL’s leading New York capital markets brokers in November. Richard Baxter, Yoron Cohen and Scott Latham joined JLL in 2010, after a stint with Cushman. Joseph Harbert, president of the Eastern region, led the hiring on Colliers’ behalf. The move allowed Harbert, a Cushman alum, to reunite with his former colleagues. Jon Caplan, who was also a top member of the JLL team, is planning to start his own shop and pursue investing. The JLL team’s focus was on brokering the sale of Manhattan trophy office towers, with Cohen representing Olayan Group in its $1.4 billion purchase of the Sony Building. Colliers has long struggled to compete in this space, and in 2015, took No. 19 in TRD’s investment sales rankings with $527 million across eight deals.

Sean Black

Sean Black jumped from job to job this year, but one place he’s likely not headed next is the Garden State. The star office leasing broker and former Olympic boxer began the year at Cushman & Wakefield, where he had joined in July 2015 after a six-year tenure at JLL. He left Cushman for WeWork in March to oversee its East Coast operation. But his tenure was cut short in October about a week after he made disparaging comments about Jersey City, one of WeWork’s newest markets, at a panel discussion. A month later, Black launched his eponymous company. He declined to comment, but sources called it a “blockchain-driven tenant-rep [leasing] platform.”

Mark Weiss

Although Mark Weiss left Newmark Grubb Knight Frank for Cushman & Wakefield in January, the work at his former brokerage continued to pop up throughout the year. He and his former Newmark colleagues Justin DiMare and Howard Kesseler won a Real Estate Board of New York Ingenious award in April for brokering the sale of a Department of Sanitation site that allowed for a new Upper East Side medical campus project. Then, in December, law firm Hogan Lovells, one of his biggest clients at Newmark, signed a lease for 206,720 square feet at 390 Madison Avenue. Weiss, who started working at Newmark in 2002, has brokered more than 1,000 deals over the course of his career.

C. Bradley Mendelson and David Green

New York’s retail brokerage world saw a major shake-up when Brad Mendelson and David Green left Cushman in November to ramp up Colliers’ stagnant retail operation. Mendelson and Green, who both had been at Cushman since 2004, brought Mendelson’s daughter Nicole with them and plan to build out a larger team. Mendelson specializes in Times Square retail, having brokered the Gap and Old Navy’s lease at 1530 Broadway last year and the prior occupant Toys R Us’ lease there in 2000. In The Real Deal’s December ranking of the top 15 retail brokerages, Cushman took No. 2 with 1.37 million square feet leased over the past year, behind CBRE. Colliers, however, didn’t even make the list.

Residential

Brenda Powers

Sotheby’s International Realty’s Brenda Powers ricocheted around the brokerage world in 2016 — starting with her surprise move to Compass without longtime business partner Elizabeth Lee Sample. At the time, Powers — who with Sample specialized in sales at the Time Warner Center — said she wanted to expand her business to Miami, which she couldn’t do at Sotheby’s. A month into her run at the venture-backed firm, though, Powers was let go. She landed at Town Residential next, but ultimately returned to Sotheby’s (and Sample) in April.

Cathy Taub

Cathy Taub’s move from Stribling to Sotheby’s was one of the year’s biggest surprises on the residential side. In her 14-year run at Stribling, Taub — A Former Wall Street lawyer — was a perennial top producer who claims to have sold more than $1 billion in properties. She sold a $12 million apartment to Katie Couric and represented developer Cary Tamarkin in the pre-development phase of his condo project at 508 West 24th Street alongside colleague Alexa Lambert.

Toni Haber

After 27 years at Douglas Elliman, veteran broker Toni Haber brought her four-member team to Compass in August. Notable deals include selling a $30.8 million penthouse at Walker Tower in 2014 and a penthouse at 400 Fifth Avenue for nearly $11 million to businessman Alex Meruelo.

Wendy Maitland

Amid a bloody battle with Town, the firm’s former president of sales Wendy Maitland jumped to Brown Harris Stevens. Maitland had sued Town in May, claiming that Town’s former co-owner Joseph Sitt starved the company of funds, costing it agents and business. After CEO Andrew Heiberger bought out Sitt, he blasted Maitland — one of his first employees, whom he hired from BHS — for filing a “frivolous” lawsuit, and said she broke her employment agreement by moving to BHS and taking other Town agents with her. Maitland and Town settled the suit in September. Three months later, Maitland launched Atelier, a new development unit within BHS.

Elaine Diratz

Town Residential hired new development strategist Elaine Diratz in October from Extell Development. An alum of Corcoran Sunshine, she helped recruit on-site sales staff for Extell’s One57, 70 Charlton, One Manhattan Square and other projects. At Town, Diratz was hired to co-lead the new development division with Shlomi Reuveni, but Town declined to renew his contract shortly after her arrival. “The division is growing very nicely and we have our hands full,” Heiberger said when he hired Diratz.