John Cushman III dies at 82

Cushman’s grandfather founded C&W in 1917

John Cushman III (Cushman & Wakefield)
John Cushman III (Cushman & Wakefield)

John Cushman III, the grandson of the founder of commercial brokerage Cushman & Wakefield and its eventual chairman, died on Thursday. He was 82.

Cushman & Wakefield and his family — four sons, his wife Jeanine and 10 grandchildren — announced in the evening that the chairman died “peacefully.”

Cushman grew up in New Jersey and fell into real estate upon graduating from Montclair High School. His grandfather John Clydesdale Cushman and great-uncle Bernard Wakefield formed Cushman & Wakefield in 1917, but the young Cushman’s first job was running an elevator in a building on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

At the age of 22, Cushman joined his family’s brokerage and helped open its first Southern California office in Los Angeles four years later. In 1978, Cushman and his twin brother, Louis, left the firm to form Cushman Realty Corporation, another brokerage focused on office leasing.

In the 1980s, Cushman Realty scored one of the largest deals of Cushman’s career — Merrill Lynch’s 25-year, 4-million-square-foot lease at the soon-to-be World Trade Center in the Financial District. It was one of the largest office leases in the world.

“At the age of 44, John Cushman is a leader of the pack, a flamboyant, boastful broker with the negotiating skills of a diamond trader and a line into the most powerful corporate circles,” the New York Times wrote in a 1985 article about the deal.

At the time, he spent half his day on the phone — from his 80-foot yacht, 550-acre ranch in Idaho and three Rolls-Royces, among other places, according to the Times. One rival called him the “premier broker in the United States,” and New York developer William Zeckendorf Jr. said, “John Cushman understands equity deals better than any other broker.”

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When C&W acquired Cushman Realty Corporation in 2001, Cushman was named chairman of the firm.

Outside of his work, Cushman was involved in politics, supporting Gov. Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election as a delegate for the Republican Party.

“President Obama has been a great disappointment to those who voted for him, believing he would be a strong leader in growing the economy and creating jobs,” Cushman told the Glendale News-Press in 2012. “We need a change in the White House before this president takes the American people over the cliff.”

During the 2016 presidential election, Cushman told TRD he was undecided. The firm cut all ties with the Trump brand in 2021 after the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol building.

In 2016, Cushman sold his stake in C&W when it acquired DTZ. At 75 years old, he went back to being a broker at the merged firm.

“I’m OK with that,” he told TRD that year. “I am going to be a hell of a lot more hands-on as it relates to transactions, yeah. I am going to be like glue, all over it.”

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