Paul J. Massey Jr.

By Lauren Elkies | November 18, 2008 11:05AM

Massey and partner Robert Knakal founded the commercial real estate firm 20 years ago this month. The brokerage, which has 67 agents in three offices  and is slated to open a fourth office in New Jersey, has created a niche for itself, focusing on mid-size building sales and operating on a territory system. CoStar Group ranked Massey Knakal Realty Services No. 1 in terms of commercial property sales in the city with 405 in 2007, for a total value of $2.02 billion.

What is your full name?
Paul John Massey Jr.

What is your birth date?
February 19, 1960.

Where do you live?
Larchmont, N.Y.

Do you have any other homes?
No.

Where did you grow up?
Dedham, Mass.

What was your first job?
Washing dishes at a Woolworth’s luncheonette counter. I was 15 years old, and it was the summer. I wanted money, and [my parents] weren’t giving me any.

How long have you been married?
Twenty years this past May.

What do you do in your free time?
Coach soccer for all three [children — Paul III, 18, Sarah, 16, and Greta, 12]. I have a racing sailboat, a Shields, which is a 1962 one-design boat. I am part of the Long Island racing circuit. I box for exercise, three days a week, with some of the young kids from the office [at Mendez Boxing at 25 West 26th Street].

Do they hold their punches?
They might say they do [laughs], but I don’t think so.

How’d you get into boxing?
When we first started this company, I worked out at a taekwondo gym [Henry Cho’s Karate Institute at 46 West 56 Street]. I did that for 15 years. I always wanted to do karate and box, and when Henry Cho retired and closed the gym in 2001, I needed to do something. I still work out one day a week with some of the old black belts [Massey has a black belt].

Do you have a mentor?
My stepfather Jack Holler [who started the John H. Holler Co. in New Jersey], who’s technically my wife’s stepfather. He was a very successful mortgage broker both in New York City and New Jersey. In the early ’90s, Bob [Knakal] and I were broke, and he lent us $75,000 to keep Massey Knakal going. We offered him a piece of the company, but he wouldn’t take it. He just said, ‘Repay me whenever you can,’ which we did earlier than we had promised. He’s retired, but he and I always talk about business, and it’s always very helpful.

What quality could you improve in yourself?
I’m a bit of a conflict avoider.

If you weren’t in the real estate industry, what would you be doing?
Coaching wrestling.

Did you wrestle?
In high school and college.

What worries keep you up at night?
Keeping my schedule straight.

You don’t have an assistant?
Yes I do. The Crackberry helps a lot, too.

What do you generally eat for lunch?
Usually I go a year straight eating the same thing.

What is it this year?
Chicken salad [in] a wrap with bacon, lettuce and tomato.

Are you obsessive compulsive?
I don’t know. Growing up, my mom would make the same thing every day — bologna and mayonnaise on white bread. I hated it. I’d trade it for anything I could.

How often are you at home for meals?
I have this thing where I’m home for dinner one night a week and home for breakfast one day a week. I started this when [my children] were really young. I usually make my mom’s buttermilk pancake recipe from scratch for breakfast, take them to school and say hi to their teachers. In the summer, we go up to the Cape and spend time up there. Every kid in the neighborhood comes by for pancakes, which I love.

Do you miss being a broker?
I still work with select clients, but I don’t have a territory.

How many times has your firm sued or been sued?
We’re probably in 15 or 16 litigations either as collection actions or some nominal nonsense at any given time, [but] never anything substantive.

How’d you get to be first name in the company name? Was it alphabetical?
No, we agreed to flip a coin. We bought a silver dollar at the bank, went to the clock tower in the Waldorf lobby, and we flipped a coin — the best out of seven. I told Bob that was divine intervention, because who can spell ‘Knakal’? And the trade-off was he got to be chairman.

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