Arthur Mirante II is a principal and tri-state president of Avison Young, a Canadian commercial brokerage that made its first push into the New York City market last fall. An attorney by trade, Mirante joined the firm in April after 41 years at Cushman & Wakefield, where he became the firm’s first nonbroker CEO at age 40. In his 20 years as chief executive, he oversaw the firm’s expansion from 60 offices in the U.S. to 173 offices globally, and grew revenues tenfold, from $100 million to $1 billion. He stepped down as CEO in 2004 to become a broker and Cushman’s president of Global Development. He’s been involved in megadeals, including the record $1.8 billion acquisition of 666 Fifth Avenue in 2007 and the $1.72 billion sale of 200 Park Avenue in 2005.
What is your full name?
Arthur Joseph Mirante II.
What is your date of birth?
August 25, 1943.
Where do you live?
On East 76th Street, right on the FDR Drive. We also have a home in Sharon, Conn.
Where did you grow up?
Right across the river in North Bergen, N.J. I was lucky to get a football scholarship to Holy Cross College in Massachusetts. It got me out of the neighborhood. Most of the other guys in my high school class went on to be electricians, carpenters; they went to work in the shipyards. We were in a [lower middle-class] economic situation, so absent an athletic scholarship, I don’t know if I would have gone to college.
What were your parents like?
They were very loving. My father was a refrigeration mechanic. I am Arthur J. Mirante II. They didn’t want me to be called “junior,” so they put the “second” on my birth certificate. I never used it [until] my father went bankrupt. He used [his savings] to get a patent on an invention he had, an automobile engine run by Freon gas. But the gas then became illegal because of the environmental fumes it gives off. I had to start using “the second” to get a charge card when I was in college. Otherwise the application would come back and say, “You’re bankrupt.”
I heard that you played pro football for a day.
Yes. For the Newark Bears [a now-defunct minor league team]. I had a contract, $75 a game. After the first game, I ran back a few kickoffs and I said, “I don’t think I want to do this anymore.”
No. 1, I wasn’t good enough to go to the NFL. No. 2, getting your brains beat in is kind of a difficult way to make a living.
What did you do instead?
My [now ex-] wife got pregnant, and I went to St. John’s University Law School during the day, and worked at night. I worked in the jails up in the Bronx, in what was known as Fort Apache, for the probation department. When I wasn’t interviewing prisoners to see if they qualified for parole or not, I could study.
What did that teach you?
It taught me not to commit any crimes. [Laughs]
How did you get into real estate?
I was an attorney practicing for a firm called Albanese & Albanese [founded by real estate attorney and developer Vincent Albanese]. I applied for a job as a lawyer at several of the big real estate companies. About six months after I applied for the job, I got hired by Cushman & Wakefield in 1971.
You were appointed CEO in 1984. How did you get that job?
I was very young and unprepared when [then-general counsel George Lees] had a stroke. I was the only lawyer in the firm, and our then-president Jim Peters came to me and said, “I know you’re not ready for this, but you’re going to be our general counsel.” Then there came a time when [former CEO Stephen Siegel] asked me to please undertake the oversight and management in the New York area. [When Siegel left,] I became CEO.
Why did you leave Cushman for a firm that’s been described as a start-up, at least in New York City?
Well, it’s not like I’ve been jumping around! It’s 41 years at the same company. The single reason is the opportunity that Avison Young offered me to build a brand-new business from the bottom up, here in the New York tri-state area. I wouldn’t have moved to another giant firm.
Was there a catalyst, or a moment when you decided to do that?
No. The moment was when I got a call and I said, “What’s the name of the company?”
What are the best and worst parts of the new firm?
The best part is the excitement and energy. The worst is that I miss my friends at Cushman & Wakefield.
What is your proudest real estate transaction?
Helping the Alvin Ailey dance company [where Mirante is a board member] find a permanent home. Two years earlier, we had just avoided bankruptcy. We now have a building on 55th Street and Ninth Avenue.
Are you married?
I’m on my second marriage. My first marriage was 20-plus years, the second is 18 years. I have a 17-year-old from my current marriage, two adult children in their 40s and six grandchildren. I’m very lucky.
Where’s your wife from?
She grew up on the [Caribbean] island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, so we used to go down a minimum of once a year. We even bought some land on this wonderful island called Bequia.
What makes a successful marriage?
Oy. I think it’s all about one word: sacrifice. It’s very hard, I think, to live with one person, be monogamous, because of all the stresses that life has. A lot of times, you don’t figure that out until your second marriage.