01/06/2010

3 Brokerages Seek to Bolster NY Operations

Colliers Pinkard, Holliday Fenoglio Fowler and Jones Lang LaSalle are each aiming to bulk up their New York investment-sales teams, leading some to speculate that another round of musical chairs may be in the offing for top brokers.

The last big shift occurred from 2002 to 2004, when no fewer than nine leading brokers changed firms. It was touched off when CB Richard Ellis raided Cushman & Wakefield, hiring away Darcy Stacom and Bill Shanahan. Cushman then turned around and hired CB brokers Scott Latham and Jon Caplan. In 2003, CB merged with Insignia/ESG, absorbing Richard Baxter, Ron Cohen, Woody Heller and Nat Rockett. Soon after the merger closed, Baxter, Cohen and Rockett jumped to Cushman, while Heller moved over to Studley. A year later, Rockett left for Jones Lang.

This time around, speculation is centering on Cushman's team of Baxter, Cohen, Latham and Caplan. The buzz is that Colliers, Holliday and Jones Lang each recently contacted the four brokers, who primarily focus on Class-A and -B office listings in Manhattan. The quartet's five-year contracts with Cushman expired in 2008, leaving individual members or the entire team free to jump from the brokerage's well-established platform if an enticing offer comes along.

Recruitment of the team would be a game-changer for Colliers or Holliday, neither of which has a major investment-sales presence in Manhattan. And it would lift Jones Lang into the territory of the current Big 3 - CB, Cushman and Eastdil Secured. The four Cushman brokers have handled a number of giant property sales - although, like everyone else, their pace of activity has slowed dramatically in the wake of the market freefall.

If some or all of the brokers make a jump, it could spur other moves, as happened early last decade. For example, if they went to Jones Lang, market players speculate, some key Jones Lang brokers - including Rockett or Peter DeCheser, who joined 18 months ago from local brokerage Massey Knakal - might in turn defect to Colliers or Holliday. And Cushman would need to fill its void, as well.

Another name bandied about by some is Wayne Maggin, who recently retired after 25 years with Eastdil Secured and predecessor Eastdil Realty. One prominent broker suggested that Maggin - a top player in the city through several up and down cycles - would be a major pick-up for any firm. It's unclear whether he has been approached.

Unlike during the last round of changes, Stacom and Shanahan are likely to stay put. They apparently signed a new contract with CB in 2008 after their initial five-year pacts expired. And Heller is seen as likely to stay at Studley, where he oversees not just the New York effort, but has also played a key role in building Studley's investment-sales operation in other markets.

The interest of Colliers, Holliday and Jones Lang in building up their New York investment-sales operations seems counterintuitive, given the nosedive in property sales and the resulting sharp cutbacks by brokerage firms. But the three companies are eager to start building a foundation for a market revival. Colliers is also looking to hire equity/debt specialists. It should have its pick of the litter in that quest, given the widespread displacement of investment bankers and placement agents following the implosion on Wall Street.

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