The Real Deal New York

Here are the top broker comings and goings of 2018

Sudden closures of Town Residential, Eastern Consolidated have had major implications
By Rich Bockmann | December 28, 2018 08:00AM

From left: Vickey Barron, Daun Paris and Peter Hauspurg, Bob Knakal, and Andrew Heiberger

Like the “force majeure” clauses written into real estate deals, there were powers well beyond the control of mortal real estate brokers that led to so many job changes in 2018.

The hasty and unforeseen closures this year of Town Residential and Eastern Consolidated could have seemed like acts of God to hundreds of rank-and-file brokers who suddenly found themselves – along with their colleagues – looking for somewhere to land this year.

For several frenzied months, brokers held numerous meetings across the city with various brokerages, who one-by-one picked up the talent on the market. In fact, companies like Meridian Capital Group and Compass launched new divisions that they previously hadn’t focused on after picking up dealmakers with particular specialties.

Meanwhile, some top brokers took it upon their own to switch firms over the past 12 months, with major implications for the brokerages’ market share.

Bob Knakal, for instance, joined JLL this year from Cushman & Wakefield, which he had helped build into a force to reckon with in the middle-market investment-sales space. And Vickey Barron, the No. 2 residential sales broker in all of Manhattan, jumped ship from Corcoran to join Compass.

Indeed, it seems like more brokers switched firms in 2018 than during any year in recent memory. Here, then, are the top broker moves of the year:

Commercial:

Knakal makes a break for JLL

When the contracts that tied former Massey Knakal principals to Cushman & Wakefield expired earlier this year, it released some major talent into free agency.

None of those dealmakers was bigger than Bob Knakal, who – after taking a few months off over the summer – signed with JLL in September.

Knakal’s exit from Cushman – which bought the company he co-founded with Paul Massey for $100 million – wasn’t exactly a smooth one. Cushman in June announced it had fired the investment-sales guru, reportedly after it found out he had been holding meetings with rival firms.

Knakal took a few months off over the summer and, as most of the industry returned to work after Labor Day, signed a deal to join JLL. There, he’s been recruiting former Massey Knakal brokers to add firepower.

Paul Massey launches Building by Building, Block by Block

The other named half of Massey Knakal launched his own brokerage, B6 Advisors in July, and has since staffed up with numerous alumni from his old firm.

Among them is Queens specialist Tom Donovan, who joined Massey Knakal in 1998 to grow the company’s footprint in that borough from two brokers to more than 20.

Massey brought on Michael Wlody and Neil Heilberg, the former chief-financial and chief-operating officers – respectively – at Massey Knakal. B6 also hired a group of brokers led by DJ Johnston for its first team in Brooklyn.

Avison Young snags James Nelson

Another hit to Cushman was when former Massey Knakal principal James Nelson in January left for Avison Young.

Nelson earlier this year told The Real Deal that he had received higher offers from other brokerages, but chose Avison because it allowed him the opportunity to build out a platform of his own design. Nelson implemented a specialized system – somewhat reminiscent of Massey Knakal’s famed territory system – where brokers specialize in particular asset classes.

Avison has hired more than 30 brokers for the team. But Nelson’s hire isn’t the only big move this year for brokerage, which got a capital infusion in July when Canadian pension fund manager Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec has invested $250 million in the company. Avison’s since hired CBRE office-leasing brokers Keith Caggiano and Roshan Shah, as well as former Colliers International New York president Joe Harbert.

Gene Spiegelman heads to Ripco

As Cushman geared up for its long-awaited initial public offering, longtime retail broker Gene Spiegelman left for Ripco Real Estate, where he took an ownership stake in the boutique retail firm.

Spiegelman wasn’t just a deal maker; he had previously served as the head of Cushman & Wakefield’s retail division.

Gus Field leaves the brokerage game

Another big loss for Cushman came when company veteran Gus Field left in April to join Tishman Speyer, where he took the job as head of office leasing for the landlord, which is developing a massive office tower in Hudson Yards.

Eastern fallout

When Daun Paris and Peter Hauspurg gathered employees in June to tell them that the nearly 40-year-old firm was calling it quits, it came as a shock to those inside the company’s halls.

Suddenly, dozens of dealmakers were looking for new jobs. Over the following months, the dust settled and they found new homes.

Paris and Hauspurg, for their parts, didn’t hang it all up. In October, they resurfaced at ABS Partners, where they’re working on the company’s acquisitions pipeline. Other top brokers include Brian Ezratty and Ron Solarz, who joined Newmark.

Both Robin Abrams – who made one of the industry’s biggest moves of 2017 when she left Lansco for Eastern – and Adelaide Polsinelli landed jobs at Compass, where they’re spearheading the residential brokerage’s commercial division.

Likewise, Meridian Capital Group launched a retail-leasing division when it hired James Famularo. And it also picked up debt brokers Adam Hakim and James Murad.

And Ackmann-Ziff Real Estate Group picked up former Eastern young guns Andrew Sasson and Chad Sinsheimer, who closed the first deal at their new firm in November when they sold a Long Island City site for $31 million.

Eastdil’s hotel honchos split for Newmark

In the first big hiring since its initial public offering late last year, Newmark in the spring lured the top-hotel sales team from Eastdil Secured.

The brokerage hired Lawrence Wolfe, Adam Etra, Mark Schoenholtz, and Miles Spencer, who were in charge of Eastdil’s hospitality division for the eastern half of the United States.

It was the biggest loss for Eastdil since Doug Harmon and Adam Spies left for Cushman in late 2016.

Amit Doshi joins Meridian amid ugly fight with his longtime partner

Amit Doshi joined Meridian in July, just a few weeks after Michael Besen accused the broker of mismanaging Besen & Associates and several investment properties they own together.

Besen & Associates had been one of the Top 10 investment-sales brokerages in the city, having negotiated $631.1 million worth of deals in 2017. It’s not yet clear what impact Doshi’s move will have on Besen and Meridian’s respective market shares.

Earlier this month, Doshi closed an $80 million deal for a Murray Hill property that he began marketing on behalf of the Riese Organization while at Besen & Associates. Matthew Garcia, also of Besen, represented the site’s buyer, Lalezarian Properties.

Lee & Associates expands

Lee & Associates made big moves to expand its platform this year.

In June, the company launched a residential brokerage. And in the same month the company hired Vickram Jambu and Chris Varjan, both formerly of Venture Capital Partners, and Paul Popkin, formerly of the Popkin Group to head up an investment sales division.

Then in November, Lee & Associates hired a 10-person office-and-retail team from Advisors Commercial Real Estate.

Residential:

Leaving so soon? Vickey Barron jumps to Compass

Vickey Barron made one of 2017’s top broker moves when she left Douglas Elliman for Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group.

Well, this year she did it again when she joined Compass in September. Barron, who is best known for leading sales at the trio of former Ralph Walker buildings converted into condominiums, ranked as TRD’s No. 2 top broker in the Manhattan last year with more than $286 million in closed sales.

Christie’s snags Erin Boisson Aries for first NYC brokerage hire

Christie’s International Real Estate, a subsidiary of the 251-year-old auction house, launched its brokerage division in the city by hiring Brown Harris Stevens’ broker Erin Boisson Aries.

Boisson Aries and her team had ranked No. 25 on TRD’s most recent list of the top brokers with $104.2 million in closed deals in 2017.

Leaving Town

Earlier this year, Town Residential was home to some 400 agents. That left hundreds of brokers looking for new jobs when the company suddenly shuttered its resale and leasing business in April.

Jeff Appel, the company’s former president, joined Halstead a broker. And “Million Dollar Listing New York” star Steve Gold joined Corcoran.

Four months after Town shut down the resale and leasing lines of business, Compass had taken on highest number of the company’s former agents, with 54 hires.