How Barry Gosin poached Harmon and Spies

Newmark’s growth story lured CRE’s most-coveted free agents

From left: Doug Harmon, Barry Gosin, and Adam Spies
From left: Doug Harmon, Barry Gosin, and Adam Spies (Getty)

Doug Harmon and Adam Spies became free agents in 2021 when their contract expired at Cushman & Wakefield.

The chance to poach commercial real estate’s top dealmakers must have seemed irresistible to Barry Gosin, who has built Newmark into one of the world’s top brokerages by ruthlessly raiding rivals for talent. And this month, he pulled it off.

But how did the CEO of a firm that has always played second fiddle to larger competitors land commercial brokerage’s top prize?

It helped that Harmon and Spies had grown restless by the time their five-year contract was up at Cushman and were looking for a new challenge, a source involved in the negotiations told The Real Deal.

They had transformed Cushman from a perennial second-stringer in the world of big investment sales into the dominant player, and in Newmark they saw an opportunity to do it again. The company was in growth mode and offered them a chance to make an even bigger impact.

Newmark, in many ways, is a more tightly knit company than Cushman. It has just 6,300 employees compared with Cushman’s 50,000. And Newmark is the only major brokerage headquartered in New York, where Harmon and Spies work and do most of their deals. Cushman’s CEO, John Forrester, is based in London, and its base is in Chicago, as is JLL’s. CBRE’s corporate office is in Dallas.

Harmon wrote in an email to TRD that he was proud of the work his team did at Cushman and the sales records they set.

“We enjoyed helping navigate the firm through their successful IPO, and then through Covid, all while helping to elevate the brand to a spot that CW enjoys today which is clearly as recognizable around the world as CBRE and JLL,” he wrote. “We hope to have a similar impact at Newmark.”

Gosin had plundered Cushman in 2015 when he hired the top CRE sales broker in Boston, Rob Griffin, and his team. The next year he hit CBRE, hiring away Kevin Shannon on the West Coast. Griffin and Shannon now serve as co-heads of U.S. capital markets with Harmon and Spies.

And in 2018 the Newmark CEO poached Eastdil Secured’s top hotel brokerage team, led by Larry Wolfe. He’s also had a voracious appetite for acquiring companies. That same year he bought the top retail brokerage in New York, RKF, for an undisclosed price, and one of the country’s leading government-sponsored entity lenders, Berkeley Point Capital, for $875 million.

Newmark’s public shareholders have not appreciated the strategy, perhaps preferring the company would cut back on spending and focus on the bottom line. Newmark’s stock trades at about $8 per share, down from $14 at its tumultuous 2017 IPO.

Yet Gosin has been undeterred. He said on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call that his focus is growing the business. To that end, he will curtail Newmark’s share-buyback program and go into buying mode, targeting companies whose valuations have taken a hit.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

By signing up, you agree to TheRealDeal Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

“We are incredibly encouraged to continue leaning forward and doing what we have done because we know it’s going to yield a better result,” he said.

Of course, hiring top talent comes at a cost, literally. Gosin, however, played down the suggestion that he lured Harmon and Spies with copious amounts of cash, saying brokers at that stage of their career don’t move for the money.

The financial details have yet to emerge, and might never.

“Barry doesn’t kiss and tell,” said Piper Sandler’s Alexander Goldfarb, who pointed out that at Cushman, Harmon and Spies were paid entirely in cash, while at Newmark they will also get restricted stock.

“That says a lot about what Newmark offers,” he said. “Barry knows every game and every trick out there. He’s hired big names. He knows he’ll get those returns and now the company has to show it to shareholders. That’s where the balance is in investing for growth and actually delivering it.”

Harmon and Spies will work side by side with Newmark’s debt team led by Dustin Stolly and Jordan Roeschlaub. It brings together not only two of the most successful brokerage teams but some of CRE’s biggest personalities — a combination that’s already raising eyebrows across the industry.

“Some people love it and some hate it,” said one CRE veteran who asked for anonymity to speak candidly. “Some people don’t like all that power consolidated in one place.”

As for Cushman, it’s not clear the company has anyone to step in and do the institutional deals that Harmon and Spies did.

The job of finding a replacement falls to Dan Broderick, who took over as president of the Americas advisory group in the middle of last year after Carlo Barel di Sant’Albano left the firm.

Cushman spokesperson Brad Krieger said Sant’Albano decided to step down for personal reasons before the company learned his star brokers would be leaving. Krieger added that Cushman is focused on its business as a whole.

“It’s important to remember that we’re a leading full-service global platform,” he wrote. “We understand why the moves this week made headlines, but we stand confident knowing that outside of that single team, we completed more than $131 billion in sales in 2022 globally across all asset types.” 

Read more