Cushman & Wakefield fired veteran broker after argument with regional CEO: sources

Peter Hennessy opposed a new expenses policy in sharp-tongued email directed at head of Americas

Peter Hennessy and Shawn Mobley with Cushman & Wakefield's headquarters at 1290 Sixth Avenue
Peter Hennessy and Shawn Mobley with Cushman & Wakefield's headquarters at 1290 Sixth Avenue

Cushman & Wakefield fired former executive Peter Hennessy two weeks ago after the veteran broker penned an angry email directed at a high-ranking company officer over a new belt-tightening policy, multiple sources told The Real Deal.

In an email chain on which 20 to 30 of the firm’s top brokers were discussing a new policy that severely limits travel expenses, Hennessy took aim at Shawn Mobley, Cushman’s newly-minted CEO for the Americas. It’s not clear what exactly Hennessy wrote, but multiple people who read the email described it as “excessive” and “harsh.”

Soon after, Hennessy got pink-slipped. The broker couldn’t be reached for comment, and a spokesperson for Cushman said “we have no further comment at this time.”

The manner in which Cushman let other top executives and brokers know of the firing was nearly as surprising as the initial termination, several employees at the company said. They asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to discuss the firing publicly.

In an email sent to a select group of about 20 high-level employees, tri-state CEO John Santora, wrote: “At Cushman & Wakefield, we believe in working collaboratively, displaying high ethical behavior and treating fellow employees and clients with the utmost respect,” Commercial Observer reported.

An employment attorney who was not familiar with the specifics of this case said that statement appeared to open more questions than it answered.

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“The reason a company might want to criticize someone on the way out is to distance it from the underlying conduct. But when you make it so ambiguous and vague instead of sending a message it creates more questions about what happened,” said Brian Heller, a partner at the firm Schwartz Perry & Heller.

Multiple people familiar with the series of events that led to Hennessy’s termination said the new policy puts stringent limits on the costs brokers can expense to the company for travel – not just cross-country flights and hotel rooms, but also local travel like taxis and Ubers.

Sources said it’s something that a number of brokers are displeased with, but Hennessy was said to have made his objections personal toward the Chicago-based Mobley, who had previously led Cushman’s eastern region before he was promoted in November to replace outgoing Americas CEO Tod Lickerman.

Hennessy’s choice of words and conduct were described as inappropriate for a subordinate to address a member of the C-suite. Insiders at the brokerage speculated that Mobley may have been trying to assert his new authority with a headstrong broker. Several sources at the company also said Hennessy had a reputation of sometimes being combative.

Hennessy had previously been president of the New York tri-state region for DTZ, and joined Cushman through the companies’ merger in 2015. He believed he was in the running for a more senior position at the new, bigger Cushman, sources told TRD.

Mark Maurer contributed reporting.