The Closing: Bruce Mosler

Bruce Mosler
Bruce Mosler (photo by Ben Baker)

Bruce Mosler was the president and CEO of Cushman & Wakefield from 2005 until March of this year, when former Centro CEO Glenn Rufrano took over. Mosler became co-chairman of the firm, and next month he’ll transition to chairman of global brokerage. In 1987, he founded Riverbank Realty Company, which later merged with Galbreath New York. He joined Cushman & Wakefield as an executive vice president in 1997.

What’s your date of birth?
October 16, 1957.

Where do you live?
We live on 62nd and Columbus. We have a home in East Hampton and a home in Williamsburg, Virginia, where my in-laws are.

Where did you grow up?
Born and raised in New York. I grew up in basically two locations, 1035 Fifth Ave. and 10 Gracie Square.

You spent two years as a teenager studying in Switzerland — why?
I think it’s because my mother wanted to experience living in Europe [laughs]. I went to Le Rosey, a boarding school outside of Geneva. In retrospect it was a very good experience; at the time it was a difficult adjustment because I was uprooted.

Why didn’t you join the family business, Mosler Safe?
You learn very quickly the benefits of a wonderful family business … but you also learn about the challenges of a family business, which is family. I’m proud of the brand because Mosler safes sit in Fort Knox today. In the ’70s they sold [the business] to American Standard. [So] there was no question coming out of college as to whether or not I needed to get a job. My father had a very interesting attitude. We butted heads early. He wanted me to go to Princeton.

Is that where he went?
Yes. I went to Duke and instantly fell in love with the campus. But it created significant stress in our relationship for a while. … My father was a great friend and mentor [but] we diverged on a number of things. He made it clear very early that he felt his obligations to his children were to provide an education, provide a start, if possible, and the rest of his earnings were going to charitable causes.

So no inheritance?
He made it very clear early on that was not an expectation we should have.

So I guess it’s a good thing you were successful.
It certainly put a fire in my belly. I was a terrible student. I wanted to work and earn a living as soon as possible.

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Why were you a terrible student — did you just not try, or were you rebelling?
All of the above.

What was your first big real estate deal?
One of my first very big deals was with a client of mine today, Cohen Brothers, with Cahners Publishing, 475 Park Avenue South, about 66,000 feet. … There’s nothing quite like that feeling when you have the first one under your belt.

So are you concentrating on brokerage right now?
In January, I am going to return to brokerage full-time as chairman of global brokerage.

Is that a lateral move?
It’s neither up, down or sideways; it’s what I want to do in order to fully engage with the business that I think I’m best suited to do. I love brokerage.

You have two kids?
David and Charlotte. David is 16 and Charlotte is 12.

How did you meet your wife [Wendy Mosler]?
We met in college, and have been together since. We would have had kids earlier but we had challenges, and so we look at our kids as a blessing because it was not easy. I think older parents are better parents to some degree because they have more patience.

How old were you when you became a dad?
I was 37 when David was born. I was old. We were going to adopt.

How did you balance being a CEO with being a parent?
I coach David in the winter in the [Yorkville Youth Athletic Association basketball league]. [As CEO], wherever I was in the world, I would get back on Friday to coach Saturday. … When I was CEO, I clearly made a choice that it was business first and family was critical, but had to take a backseat. Now, business is still critical but my family is first. And that’s a huge change.

How did your wife feel about business coming first?
I think this is key to any person’s success, to have a partner who gets it. … Wendy’s a very independent person and she has her own career [as head of finance and acquisition for Miller Global]. And that is hugely important to someone who is going to put their business first for a period of time. I’m not saying she has done the same, because she hasn’t. She’s there for the kids’ teacher/parent interviews. I am not. … When I show up, they ask who I am. [Laughs.] Sad, but it’s part of the gig. As we look forward, I’m hoping they get to know me.

You’re known for your love of fishing. Do you ever take the kids out fishing with you?
Yes, but they get seasick, so when I take them we go closer to shore, where it’s calmer. When we’re in Florida, it’s easy because the fishing is so close. When I go [from] Montauk, we go 80 miles out.

You celebrated your 50th birthday in Philadelphia, when you were in the process of getting an advanced management degree from Wharton. What did you do to celebrate?
My wife brought down about 50 of my closest friends. Mike Fascitelli [CEO of Vornado] roasted me. It was a surprise, all engineered by Wendy after I said, “Please just come down and we’ll have dinner alone.”