President and CEO of a large residential firm: $400,000 to $3 million
The executives who head the city’s major firms — including Prudential Douglas Elliman, the Corcoran Group, Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead Property — are, not surprisingly, paid well.
But within that elite group, there are distinctions.
Sources say base salaries for the heads of Manhattan’s most well-known residential firms start at $400,000 and go up all the way up to $1.5 million. In addition, these top executives may get annual bonuses based on the company’s performance and other factors.
Elliman CEO Dottie HermanOne source close to Elliman said that president and CEO Dottie Herman has a base salary of $1.5 million. She also owns 30 percent of the company — a stake that was worth more than $20 million when she and business partner Howard Lorber bought Elliman in 2003 for $72 million. Today, Elliman is likely worth far more, and as an owner, Herman receives a percentage of the company’s annual profits. (Lorber’s Vector Group owns 50 percent of the company.) In Herman’s best years, her total compensation adds up to about $3 million, the source said.
Herman declined to comment.
The source also confirmed that Elliman, as expected, will soon drop its franchise affiliation with Prudential Real Estate. Elliman’s owners will then buy out Prudential’s 10 percent stake in the company, boosting Herman and Lorber’s share of the firm’s profits.
Like Elliman, the Corcoran Group and Brown Harris Stevens each have corporate parents — Realogy and Terra Holdings, respectively. Those relationships ensure that CEOs “will get something” even in a slow market, said a high-placed source at a smaller firm. The heads of independent firms, by contrast, can see their compensation dip dramatically when the market suffers.
Corcoran CEO Pam LiebmanAside from lavish salaries, the heads of major real estate firms often get additional perks. One residential brokerage source said those perks can include unlimited use of a chauffeured car, which can come in handy, especially for the executives who live in the suburbs, like New Jersey resident and Corcoran CEO Pam Liebman.
Though rumors abound about Liebman and executives at other firms getting company-paid apartments, they are not true, sources told The Real Deal. When asked about Liebman’s compensation and perks, a spokesperson for the firm responded by e-mail saying: “Corcoran does not comment on compensation practices, and any reported estimates are completely hypothetical and based on speculation, not fact.”
Residential superbrokers: $2 to $7 million
Much like star baseball players or financial-firm wizards, superbrokers can easily out-slug their bosses in terms of salaries.
Real estate “is not really that much different from a trading floor,” said Kathy Braddock, cofounder of Rutenberg Realty and an industry veteran. “Some traders will make more than their managers, though it’s a very small group.”
But unlike CEOs’ more stable salaries, almost all of brokers’ compensation comes from commissions, which they split with the firm. But while typical brokers get to keep 45 to 60 percent of their commissions, superbrokers can keep as much as 80 percent of it, according to sources.
Then their earnings are divvied up among teams and used to pay for marketing and other expenses, reducing the individual broker’s take.
Elliman powerbroker Raphael De NiroOne source close to Elliman said Raphael De Niro was the highest-earning broker at the firm last year, pocketing $5 million for his entire team.
De Niro’s team — which was awarded the top team prize by Elliman for highest team commissions in 2011 — has indeed been on a roll lately. For example, De Niro and his wife Claudine listed a Mandarin Oriental penthouse for $38 million, selling it for $30.55 million last July.
Assuming the De Niros received the standard 3 percent commission for representing the seller — which would have come to $917,000 — and have an 80 percent split with Elliman, they would have earned around $733,600 on that deal.
De Niro declined to comment on his salary, but said it wasn’t as high as $5 million. “I’m not an officer of a publicly traded company, so my compensation is a personal matter,” he wrote in an e-mail, “but I can assure you it wasn’t $5 million.”
Meanwhile, Elliman’s Dolly Lenz, who has brokered a reported $8.5 billion in sales in her 25-year career, raked in $3 million last year, according to the same source.
Lenz — who did not respond to a request for comment — was named the No. 1 residential broker in the U.S. at Prudential Real Estate Affiliates this spring.
Corcoran powerbroker Carrie ChiangCorcoran’s Carrie Chiang, meanwhile, won her firm’s top award last year with $300 million in sales. Assuming the same standard 3 percent and an 80 percent split with her firm, she and her team might have pulled in just over $7 million in commissions. Chiang did not respond to a request for comment.
Another highly paid broker, sources said, is Paula Del Nunzio of Brown Harris Stevens, who in late May had $360 million in listings.
Because Del Nunzio doesn’t have a team, she can personally keep that much more of her commissions, sources said, though it also means she can’t do as much volume as brokers with legions of assistants.
In March, Del Nunzio’s listing for the Rothschild Mansion at 41 East 70th Street went into contract. It’s unclear how much it fetched — according to city records, the sale had not closed as of press time — but it was last listed at $30 million. If the property closes for that amount, Del Nunzio, who did not respond to a request for comment, could walk away with $720,000, assuming an 80 percent split.
Halstead’s general sales manager Jim GricarResidential firm sales managers: $150,000 to $1 million
Sales managers, who are hired by firms to supervise agents and run offices, are sometimes overshadowed by deal-making brokers.
These executives tend to receive a base salary of $150,000 to $300,000, depending on the size of their firm, sources say. And they are also paid bonuses, often between 4 and 8 percent of their office’s profit — also known as an override fee.
But some successful managers will negotiate a payment model where they forgo a salary for a higher percentage of their office’s profits. That number could climb as high as 10 percent, sources said.
The city’s top-earning managers include Jim Gricar, Halstead’s general sales manager; Bill Cunningham, who oversees Corcoran’s main 660 Madison Avenue office; and Town Residential sales director and company founding member Wendy Maitland, sources said.
Town’s residential sales director Wendy Maitland“If you are focused on revenues and commissions, and meeting and greeting, and creating new businesses, you can make seven figures as manager,” said Andrew Heiberger, founder of both Town and Citi Habitats.
Neither Gricar nor Cunningham responded to a request for comment. Maitland would not comment on her salary, but suggested that any financial benefits were due to the early success Town has seen since launching in 2010.
“We all took a ‘high risk, high reward’ perspective, in what I think was the right time and place for veterans in the industry to do,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Head of new development at large residential firm: $300,000 to $2 million
In booming markets, the head of the new development marketing department can be among the highest-paid people at a residential firm. These executives, who come up with inventive ways to sell new condo projects and pitch developers to get business, take hefty salaries.
Susan de Franca, Elliman’s head of new developmentNormally, the head of a new development marketing division at a big firm is paid around $300,000 to $400,000 a year, sources said.
But in some cases, sources added, these executives can also earn twice their salary in bonuses in a year when a lot of new projects sell out.
With new condo projects now few and far between due to a still-shaky economy, however, these executives are unlikely to take home such large paychecks.
Susan de Franca — who left the Related Companies last year to join Elliman as president of the firm’s new developments division — makes a base salary of $700,000 a year, according to a source close to Elliman. But if her developments sell well, that number can swell to $2 million.
De Franca declined to comment.
President of the Marketing Directors, Jacqueline UrgoSources said that other top earners in this category include the head of Corcoran Sunshine Marketing, Kelly Kennedy Mack, who did not respond to a request for comment; along with Steven Kliegerman of Halstead and Jacqueline Urgo of the Marketing Directors, who both declined to comment.
Public relations: $35,000 to $500,000
There are two types of public relations representatives in real estate: those who work in-house for brokerages, developers or law firms, and those who work for outside agencies.
In-house publicists — especially those who work for developers — tend to make the most money. Sources said an experienced flack working for a developer can earn anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000, depending on their job responsibilities.
Among the highest paid are said to be Joanna Rose of Related, Silverstein Properties’ Dara McQuillan and Jordan Barowitz at the Durst Organization, according to a senior executive in the industry.
Longtime employees at well-established PR firms like Rubenstein or SDK Knickerbocker can make $100,000 to $150,000 a year, the same source said. That’s in addition to a one-time commission of 10 to 20 percent of a client’s fee, for bringing them in, though that’s usually paid out only after the client has stuck around for a year, a source said.
Entry-level publicists at PR firms might make $35,000 a year. Those with a few years of experience, however, could see that salary double, sources said.
Social media directors: $75,000 to $150,000
These days, more and more real estate companies are hiring on-staff social media directors to promote the company on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and help brokers master these increasingly important tools.
Halstead in 2011 hired its first-ever social media director, Matthew Leone, who’s responsible for the firm’s Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare accounts. He’s also involved with video marketing at the firm, and has other marketing responsibilities at parent company Terra Holdings, where he oversees a 23-person staff. Those added duties could boost his pay, sources said.
Corcoran, too, has a full-time social media guru. In 2010, graphic designer Matthew Shadbolt came to the firm from QVC, the shopping channel, to boost its online presence.
Dawn Doherty, who formerly worked at StreetEasy, took on similar duties last spring at Elliman, in a newly created role of chief digital officer. But she left after just 10 months to join Keller Williams, and the Elliman position has not yet been refilled.
Like Leone, social media directors often have other marketing duties that could boost their pay.
Doherty, Leone and Shadbolt all either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment. Elliman, Corcoran and Halstead also declined to comment on salaries for social media positions.
But Burke Smith — whose company Your Net Coach advises New York brokers about social media — said social media directors at residential brokerages (who don’t have other duties) generally make between $75,000 and $100,000 a year.
Smith cautioned, however, that these positions may not be around forever, as brokers learn how to boost their online presences themselves.
“A lot of people are being put on salaries who are social-media gurus, but who have never sold a piece of real estate in their life,” claimed Smith, who himself is a broker. “They know about a trendy thing that’s cool now, but in some cases could be out of a job within a year.”
Residential appraiser: $35,000 to $300,000
This is almost always a fee-based profession, but various post-recession reforms have reduced what appraisers can make.
As The Real Deal has reported, appraisers now often hail from far outside the New York metro area and will do the work for much less than their local counterparts. That situation has eroded wages throughout the industry, appraisers say.
During the boom, entry-level residential appraiser salaries were $60,000 a year, but now they are down to $35,000, according to sources who work in the appraisal industry and are familiar with salaries. Mid-career, those salaries can rise to $80,000 in New York City, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but only if the appraiser becomes certified, which is the step after licensing.
Still, Jeffrey Jackson, cofounder of Mitchell, Maxwell and Jackson, said high-level residential appraisers can take home $200,000 to $300,000 a year if they diversify and handle multimillion-dollar condos. In fact, the best residential appraisers in New York can make more than commercial appraisers, who might earn $125,000 on average, Jackson said.
Appraiser Jonathan MillerStill, the changes to the industry have hurt long-time practitioners.
“The new blood coming in is this ‘crank-it-out’ mentality, and the old guard is dying on the vine,” said Jonathan Miller, president and founder of Miller Samuel, who has 25 employees.
He declined to disclose a salary range for his employees, but added that he is one of the few appraisal firms that offers salaries rather than just commissions. Miller also declined to reveal his own salary.
“One of the great things about being a private company is that we get to keep all of our private information private,” he wrote in an e-mail. But given that he’s the owner of the firm and does outside work, including quarterly market reports for Elliman, his income comes from a variety of sources.
Miller said he personally responded to industry changes by adding different kinds of clients to his practice, including co-op boards and residential sellers.
Jackson said his firm — which has a handful of employees on a commission-only structure — has also branched out, working for trusts and estate attorneys, as well as courts.
“I don’t really work for banks anymore,” Jackson said.
Doorman at a typical Upper East Side co-op: $44,000
They’re on the front lines — or at least the front doors — of New York City real estate. So how much do doormen make?
In 2014, at the end of the current contract, those epaulet-wearing door-spinners will make about $44,000 a year on average, according to a spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union, which represents them.
However, holiday tips at the swankiest Fifth and Park Avenue co-ops could tack on thousands to that total, sources said.
On-site concierges, who field requests for cabs and packages, average $41,500, according to the labor bureau.
Jones Lang LaSalle CEO Colin DyerCommercial brokerage president/CEO: $500,000 to $11.5 million
Compensation varies widely among the heads of New York’s commercial brokerages, depending on the firms’ size, scope and area of specialty.
In one category are sprawling global companies like CBRE Group, Jones Lang LaSalle and Cushman & Wakefield, which is backed by Italian parent company Exor.
The global heads of those firms, who are in strictly corporate managerial roles, make between $2 and $11.5 million a year, which includes salary, bonus, stock awards and other benefits.
The salary of Cushman & Wakefield CEO Glenn Rufrano, who is based in New York, is not public.
CBRE’s outgoing CEO Brett WhiteBut CBRE’s outgoing CEO Brett White, who is based in Los Angeles, took home $5.3 million last year in salary, stock options and other benefits, according to the company’s public proxy. And in 2010, his compensation soared to $11.5 million, though part of that was stock options that might not vest for years.
Colin Dyer, the Chicago-based CEO of Jones Lang LaSalle, saw his compensation jump from $2.3 million in 2009 to $7.1 million last year, including bonus, stock awards and other benefits, according to news reports.
Those executives, however, have different arrangements than some of New York City’s so-called “player coaches.” It’s harder to determine the take-home pay of these brokers, who also have management responsibilities, because their income is a combination of commissions and salary.
CBRE’s Mary Anne TigheFor example, Mary Ann Tighe is CEO of CBRE’s Tri-State Region, but also leases millions of square feet of office space a year (see related entry below). Tighe declined to comment.
Newmark Grubb Knight Frank — which is smaller, but was recently purchased by financial services powerhouse BGC Partners — has at least two chiefs who play slightly more hands-on roles: Barry Gosin, the veteran CEO broker, and president Jimmy Kuhn, who often advises clients on their real estate assets. Both are rainmakers involved in drumming up business.
Meanwhile, Peter Riguardi, president of the New York division of Jones Lang LaSalle, over the years has handled megaleases like the MTA’s 1.6 million-square-foot lease of 2 Broadway and Bank of America’s 1.5 million-square-foot lease at One Bryant Park.
Smaller local firms, like Massey Knakal, Besen & Associates and Eastern Consolidated, are run by owner-operators whose compensation depends largely on firm profits. As a result, their fortunes seem to be tied much more closely to the market, sources say, even with the 5 percent cut of every broker’s commission that they generally get.
“If those kinds of firms have a couple bumpy quarters, it has a big impact on [principals’] lives,” said Tim King, a managing partner of CPEX Real Estate Services, a small Brooklyn-based commercial brokerage, and a former partner at Massey Knakal.
Commercial superbrokers: $5 to $10 million
Overall, revenues in commercial real estate are far larger than on the residential side. But the commission structure is far more complicated: In fact, the bigger the deal, the smaller the brokers’ percentage.
As The Real Deal has reported, commercial real estate commissions range from 1 to 5 percent for deals of $50 million and less; above that, they fall as low as 0.3 percent. The payouts are then divided up within teams by commissions and bonuses. On a megadeal, those teams can include more than a dozen people.
Within the two main camps of commercial brokers — investment sales and office leasing — a few agents dominate the market.
CBRE’s Darcy StacomAt the top of the heap for investment sales is CBRE’s Darcy Stacom, nicknamed “Queen of the Skyscrapers,” and partner Bill Shanahan. The two were largely responsible for their firm’s $5.6 billion in Manhattan sales in 2011, including the $400 million sale of 140 East 45th Street and several pricier, partial-interest sales, according to an analysis published by The Real Deal in April.
In her decades-long career, Stacom, who did not return calls for comment, has closed $50 billion in sales, including the mammoth $5.4 billion Stuyvesant Town deal in 2006.
Meanwhile, Eastdil Secured’s New York investment sales brokers completed $9 billion in 2011 in Manhattan sales — even more than CBRE. Eastdil’s brokers usually demand a commission of 1 to 5 percent for each large sales deal, a source said.
Eastdil Secured’s Doug HarmonEastdil’s most active sales broker, industry veteran Doug Harmon, brokered the $930 million deal for the Starrett-Lehigh Building on West 26th Street last summer, among others. Unlike the salary-plus-commission models most superbrokers use, Harmon and other brokers at Eastdil pool their commissions and then divvy them up at the end of the year, with the most active brokers getting the largest cuts, a source said.
On the office leasing side, the city’s highest-paid broker is CBRE’s Tighe, sources said. She, along with CBRE’s Gregory Tosko, very publicly represented Condé Nast in its 1.05 million-square-foot, 25-year lease at One World Trade Center, in a deal estimated to be worth $2 billion. Tighe ranked
No. 1 on a leasing brokers ranking in The Real Deal’s January issue.
Last spring, The Real Deal reported that the “full commission” on the One World Trade Center deal — the amount divided between the lead broker, their team, the firm and sometimes even the tenant in the form of a rebate — could have been $25 to $30 million. Even if Tighe got just a fraction of that amount, she’d still go home with several millions of dollars on that deal alone. A source at rival firm Cushman said she might take home $10 million a year.
Given that she brokered 2.2 million square feet of space last year in eight deals and likely has a salary from her managerial job, it stands to reason that she could have earned somewhere in that ballpark.
“She’s really in a class of her own,” the source said. A company spokesperson said only that “CBRE does not respond to nor comment on rumor and speculation, especially relating to personnel matters.”
Cushman’s Tara Stacom, Darcy’s sister, another star leasing broker, represented the landlord in the Condé Nast deal. While landlord-side brokers generally make anywhere from 16 to 25 percent of the full commission on megadeals, they have to split those with the house and their team.
Large development firm president/top executive: $3 million to tens of millions
The heads of the city’s most active development firms — including Related, Extell, Silverstein Properties, Forest City Ratner, the Durst Organization, Toll Brothers and TF Cornerstone — have compensation structures that are all over the map. They can vary widely, depending on which projects are being worked on and the state of the market, said one corporate recruiter familiar with the firms and their pay structures.
Related Companies chairman Stephen RossCurrently at the top of the pecking order, sources say, is Stephen Ross, founder and chairman of Related, which has a dizzying array of commercial and residential projects across the city and the country.
Related is privately held and isn’t required to divulge payroll information, but sources said Ross takes an annual salary of around $10 million. He is believed to own at least 60 percent of his company. That means in a phenomenal year, he could take home tens of millions of dollars from his real estate business, according to estimates from two sources based on an analysis of land costs, construction costs, condo sales revenue and rental income. Salaries like these are not, however, out of line with what top business executives in other fields make in New York. According to a Crain’s ranking of salaries for 2010, published last year, the head of Viacom, who finished first, had a total compensation (including stock and other benefits) of $84 million.
The salary for Ross doesn’t even take into account owning the Miami Dolphins football team, helping elevate his net worth to $3.1 billion, according to Forbes.
Other top executives at Related might make between $5 and $8 million annually, between salary, bonuses and a share of the profits, the source estimated.
The heads of slightly smaller but still prolific development firms — like Extell Development’s Gary Barnett and Douglas Durst of the Durst Organization — likely take home $5 to $7 million annually, sources said, though exact figures are not publicly available.
Spokespeople for Durst and Extell declined comment. Like with Ross, however, that could go up significantly with blockbuster projects, which Barnett has now at his hotel-condo tower One57.
Indeed, their take-home pay changes from year to year based on how many deals their firms have done and how much of their own money they put into the deals. For example, if a developer puts in 5 percent of the equity in a project, they could still personally pocket a hefty 30 percent of the project’s profits, which is a common cut. In other words, if a new condo clears $100 million, the developer’s take could be a substantial $30 million.
And to be sure, not all development company CEOs are created equally.
Bob Toll, chairman of Toll BrothersRobert Toll, chairman of the national home builder Toll Brothers, recently earned a base salary of $1.3 million, with a total compensation package worth $2.55 million, according to SEC filings.
But that difference, the recruiter said, can be explained by the fact that compensation at public companies is often lower than at private ones. And the sluggish national home-building environment may have sapped his pay in recent years, though in late May, his company’s stock was trading at about $28 a share, about the same as it was in 2007.
Top real estate investment trust (REIT) executives: $4 to $10 million
REITs make no secret of their executives’ seven-figure salaries. After all, they are public companies, and are therefore required to disclose executives’ pay.
The heads of major construction firms — the ones responsible for building the Big Apple’s most notable stadiums and skyscrapers — can see a major hit in take-home pay if the market is weak. That’s because profit margins within the industry are notoriously lean — hovering around 2 or 3 percent, sources said. And the salaries, a source said, are generally the same whether the firm is independent or owned by a deep-pocketed corporate parent (Tishman Construction, for example, which was recently purchased by global engineering firm Aecom).
Since the 2008 financial crisis, New York City has lost 20 percent of its workforce, said Barry LePatner, a construction attorney. There are measurable signs of a comeback, however: in April, the city added 4,700 construction jobs, according the state Department of Labor.
Executives at the biggest and busiest construction firms probably can depend on a salary of $500,000 to $1 million, a combination of base salary and bonuses from profit sharing, said LePatner, who authored “Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets: How to Fix America’s Trillion-Dollar Construction Industry.” But they can swell to $1.5 million in a busy year, he added.
Some of the biggest firms include Turner Construction Company, which is handling the ongoing renovation of Madison Square Garden; Tishman, which is building One World Trade Center and other towers at the site; and Fisher Brothers’ affiliate Plaza Construction, which put up 11 Times Square. Officials at the firms either declined comment or did not return e-mails.
Real estate lawyers: $100,000 to $2 million
The city’s very top real estate lawyers — the ones who handle massive skyscraper transactions — are not scrambling to put food on the table.
In some cases, they bring home $1 to $2 million per year.
Top lawyers at major firms who might fall into that category include Jonathan Mechanic, a partner at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; Stroock & Stroock & Lavan’s Leonard Boxer; and top land-use attorney Sandy Lindenbaum of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel. All three declined to discuss their salaries, but they have, of course, worked on megadeals.
Mechanic, for one, handled Kushner Properties’ $1.8 billion purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue in 2006 as well as the legal work for the building’s more recent refinancing.
He said his expertise stems in part from his previous role as a principal at development firm HRO International.
That experience “makes it easier for me to identify with my clients,” said Mechanic, who recently represented Morgan Stanley in its lease negotiations with Brookfield Office Properties at One New York Plaza.
Boxer, for his part, spearheaded the complicated legal work that allowed Larry Silverstein to lease the World Trade Center towers in 2001 before the 9/11 attacks, he said.
“All I can say is that people pay for results, and pay for respectability, and that’s what I feel I add to any of my clients I represent,” he said, adding that a key to his success is his firm’s 40-attorney real estate practice.
Meanwhile, Lindenbaum’s recent accomplishments include the rezoning of Columbia’s new Manhattanville campus, he said, and Vornado’s planned 15 Penn Plaza.
But not all lawyers are millionaires. In-house counsel positions at development companies or brokerage firms tend to pay $300,000 to $500,000, attorneys said.
At the other end of the spectrum, meanwhile, are those lawyers who handle closings on single-family homes in the outer boroughs. The more closings they can pack in, the more they can make, though owing to the slower pace of closings today, that number tops out at around $100,000, sources said.
Architects: $60,000 to $5 million
Well-known “starchitects” obviously pocket the biggest fees in their field. In a good year, a big-name architect working on a large commercial project can make up to $5 million, sources said. But the number of brand-name building designers who can command such hefty fees — like Frank Gehry, Richard Meier, Robert A.M. Stern, David Childs, Norman Foster and Jean Nouvel — can be counted on just a few fingers.
A general rule of thumb is that design fees are 10 to 15 percent of a construction budget, though if there’s a starchitect on the project, that is usually split with the architect of record, who oversees the nuts and bolts of the job.
Salaries for nonstarchitects are far less stratospheric. The average salary for a design director at a New York firm is around $150,000 a year, according to the 2011 compensation survey from the American Institute of Architects. And the salaries slide off from there. An unlicensed entry-level designer at the same firm might make about $60,000, the survey shows.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, meanwhile, puts the city average at $80,000.