1. KUSHNER, UNFILTERED
IN LATE MAY, TRD’S KONRAD PUTZIER AND Will Parker paid a visit to Charlie Kushner at the family firm’s prized 666 Fifth Avenue. The interview started off with a bang: “Are you guys going to be assholes today, or are you going to give us a fair shake? Kushner asked. “Because you’ve been assholes in the past.” “Do you want me to throw you out of here now? Because I will,” he added at another point. “Then you can write whatever the fuck you want about me.” However, the Kushner Companies boss sat for an extensive interview about tenant harassment allegations and other investigations against the firm — he described ethics watchdogs as “guys who can’t get a real job” — its 666 Fifth Avenue deal, his son Jared’s role in the White House and his own political beliefs.
2. THE DEATH OF A BROKERAGE
WHEN TOWN RESIDENTIAL FOUNDER ANDREW Heiberger announced that the firm would shutter its resale and leasing business, the onceswaggering brokerage became a cautionary tale in a market that’s being reshaped. “Due to extremely high commission costs and a fierce recruiting climate it was just not possible to make sustained profit,” Heiberger, who founded Town in 2010, wrote in a LinkedIn post. Indeed, the brokerage world has become a battle for market share: There’s increased competition from tech-focused and venturebacked firms and discount brokerages; the relationship between firms and their star brokers is becoming increasingly complex; and the proliferation of lead generation is upping tensions between portals such as StreetEasy and the brokerage firms that use its services.
3. THE GENDER DIVIDE
AMID THE BROADER #METOO MOVEMENT, TRD sat with dozens of women in real estate, who opened up about the hardships they’ve faced in the industry, such as the pay gap and what they think needs to change. But the story wasn’t just driven by narrative. We conducted a data analysis on the gender makeup of the city’s top brokerages and development firms. It revealed that leadership teams at most of the city’s largest development and investment firms are at least 70 percent male. And at the city’s 20 largest commercial brokerages, only three come close to having an even split of male and female brokers.
4. THE YEAR OF SOFTBANK
MASAYOSHI SON MUST SEE A LOT IN U.S. real estate firms. Through its Vision Fund, Son’s SoftBank has poured billions into tech-focused startups. In January, construction startup Katerra received an $865 million injection from SoftBank. In August, the Japanese conglomerate poured $1 billion into WeWork. In September, residential brokerage Compass and iBuying firm Opendoor each landed $400 million from the Vision Fund. And in November, SoftBank committed another $3 billion to WeWork, raising the value of the shared office space provider to $45 billion.
5. GROWING TECH FIEFDOM
NEW YORK CITY MAY SOON LOOK LIKE A more urban, densely populated (and colder) Silicon Alley. In February, Google — which already held dominion over Chelsea and the Meatpacking District — moved to buy the Chelsea Market building from Jamestown for a whopping $2.4 billion. In November, Amazon settled on Long Island City as home for half of its second headquarters, with a promise of 25,000 new jobs. And by the end of the year, Google announced it would invest $1 billion in a Hudson Square campus and double its workforce in the city. All along the way, TRD provided readers with think pieces on how Google’s Manhattan play would impact the neighborhoods it occupies and what such a blockbuster sale would mean for the market; how Amazon’s presence could turn Long Island City into a company town and which residential brokerages are primed to cash in on Amazon’s move; and more.
6. A $15B JUGGERNAUT
WHEN THE NORTHERN PHILIPPINES OFFICES of Avion BPO were stormed by armed security guards, one news outlet described it as a “daring raid carried out with military precision.” The computers seized by the guards would later be used in CoStar Group’s copyright infringement suit against Xceligent, a client of Avion’s. Ultimately, Xceligent shut down after hemorrhaging cash. And the case was one of at least 33 such suits that CoStar has filed against competitors, customers and individuals since the 1990s. TRD interviewed dozens of CoStar’s competitors, customers, former employees, lawyers and industry experts — and even sent one reporter to the Philippines — to detail the tech giant’s rise and its dealings with competitors. “They’ve used litigation to suppress innovation in the space,” said Elie Finegold, the former head of global innovation and business intelligence at CBRE, the world’s largest commercial brokerage and one of CoStar’s biggest customers. “And over time, they have cultivated an adversarial approach to customers.”