Bob Knakal renegotiates Cushman contract to shorten it by nearly 2 years

I-sales chair's five-year deal could instead end as early as Jan. 2018

From left: Bob Knakal and Brett White
From left: Bob Knakal and Brett White

Bob Knakal, who signed a five-year contract with Cushman & Wakefield after selling his eponymous brokerage to the firm, has renegotiated his contract and can potentially become a free agent in 2018, sources told The Real Deal.

As Doug Harmon and Adam Spies were joining the firm in October, Knakal, chair of Cushman’s investment sales division in New York, worked out a deal to restructure his contract, according to sources familiar with the internal discussions who asked not to be identified.

His five-year contract was set to expire in December 2019, five years from when Cushman acquired Massey Knakal Realty Services for a reported $100 million. It could now run out as early as January 2018, sources said.

The rest of the changes to the contract remain unclear. Sources also said that Paul Massey [TRDataCustom] renegotiated his contract with Cushman, though it’s unclear if that renegotiation also lets him out early.

The opportunity allows Knakal, who is said to own no equity stake in Cushman, to work at another brokerage, start his own company – or renew.

When reached for comment, Knakal said, “I’m extremely happy working with Adam and Doug and look forward to what this new relationship can bring.” He declined to speak further.

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As part of the Massey Knakal acquisition, Knakal and Massey joined Cushman to revive its lackluster investment sales practice, especially in the outer-borough multifamily space. But in October of this year, Cushman made an even more ambitious power play when it recruited Harmon and Spies, the top investment sales team in New York that was dominant in the sale of trophy office buildings.

As soon as Harmon and Spies joined, existing Cushman brokers — many of them Massey Knakal alumni — were advised to turn over all New York investment sales priced at $75 million and up in exchange for a referral fee. Industry sources have speculated that such a system could hasten the exits of Cushman brokers eager to work on big-ticket deals.

Knakal and the former Massey Knakal brokers largely work out of the office at 275 Madison Avenue, while Harmon, Spies and their team are based at Cushman’s New York headquarters at 1290 Sixth Avenue.

Massey, however, has become increasingly less a fixture at 275 Madison, sources say, as a result of his mayoral run.

Massey declined to comment on the status of his contract. But when asked how his campaign is affecting his job at Cushman, he said, “They’re backing my run as it’s a form of public service and civic leadership. I’m very grateful.”

Harmon and Spies recently expanded their team at Cushman, adding former colleagues Adam Doneger, Kevin Donner and Joshua King and CBRE’s Marcella Fasulo. They are now in the process of hiring analysts and associates, sources said.