Michelle MacKay named new CEO of Cushman & Wakefield

John Forrester retiring, with replacement having served as brokerage’s COO since 2020

Cushman & Wakefield's Michelle MacKay (Getty, ™/®Cushman & Wakefield/Public domain/via Wikimedia Commons, Cushman & Wakefield)
Cushman & Wakefield's Michelle MacKay (Getty, ™/®Cushman & Wakefield/Public domain/via Wikimedia Commons, Cushman & Wakefield)

A familiar face at Cushman & Wakefield will take over as the company’s new leader.

Michelle MacKay, who’s served as the COO of the Chicago-based commercial real estate brokerage since 2020, has been appointed CEO, Crain’s reported. She will begin her new role when current CEO John Forrester retires at the end of June.

MacKay takes over one of the world’s largest brokerages as the industry confronts an array of challenges in a turbulent market.

Leasing and investment sales have slowed across the globe, as rising interest rates, fears of a recession, lingering pandemic-fueled issues and recent banking fallouts hamper the commercial real estate market. These economic factors were made apparent last quarter when office vacancies rose to a new record in Chicago, hovering just above 22 percent. 

The drop in commercial activity has hurt firms like Cushman. The company just reported that revenue from its leasing business was down 20 percent last quarter compared to the same period a year ago, and revenue from property sales was down 51 percent. Cushman’s shares are trading below $9 a piece, also down about 50 percent from a year ago.

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Other household brokerage firms like JLL are enduring similar struggles, with its shares currently being sold at a 36 percent lower volume since last year to just over $133.

MacKay will need to utilize her savvy veteran leadership to turn things around. Prior to being COO, she was a member of Cushman’s board of directors dating back to 2018. MacKay spent the previous 15 years as an executive at iStar, a real estate investment trust specializing in ground leases.

“I’m looking forward to leading this great firm through its next chapter of strategic growth. Cushman & Wakefield’s unique entrepreneurial culture and employee expertise position us to not only successfully navigate the current challenges in commercial real estate services, but to also deliver long-term value, profitability and growth,” MacKay said in a statement.

Forrester will remain with the company as a strategic adviser through the end of this year. 

— Quinn Donoghue

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