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A New Era for Cushman & Wakefield

If he hasn't done so already, Bruce Mosler may want to consider adding the following words under the personal attributes heading of his resume: “high-energy, aggressive, passionate.” Those adjectives describe the president and CEO-elect of Cushman & Wakefield perfectly, according to current and former colleagues.

“He lives, breathes and eats real estate,” says Lizanne Galbreath, who in the mid-1990s served as chairman and CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based The Galbreath Co., a property management, leasing and tenant rep firm that merged with LaSalle Partners in 1997. “His energy is contagious. He has fun. Everybody around him gets caught up in the pursuit of the deal and feeds off his energy.” Galbreath has firsthand knowledge of Mosler's skills. He worked for Galbreath in the New York office from 1992 until 1997, primarily serving as president of the eastern region.

It is precisely that combination of business savvy and leadership ability that has vaulted the 46-year-old Mosler to the top executive spot at New York-based Cushman & Wakefield. He will officially take over as president and CEO in January 2005, inheriting the world's largest privately held real estate services firm with 164 offices in 49 countries, 11,000 employees and annual revenues in excess of $900 million.

Since joining Cushman & Wakefield in 1997 as executive vice president, Mosler has worked his way up the corporate ladder under the tutelage of current president and CEO Arthur Mirante, who will step down in December after 20 years. Mosler will become only the sixth CEO in the venerable firm's 87-year history.

“In many regards, my mentorship with Arthur began when I was at The Galbreath Co. I would call him from time to time for some advice,” said Mosler during an interview at his office on West 52nd Street. “It [the role of president at Galbreath] was my first exposure on the management side of the business.”

Mirante says that he knew Mosler had the potential to be his successor the day he was recruited by Cushman & Wakefield. “I was just beginning to think about a formal succession plan at the time,” recalls Mirante. So, why was Mosler ultimately chosen for the top executive spot? “It was his human qualities of empathy, the focus on client services, the business philosophy that the long-term relationship matters, and his vision for where the service business is headed that made him a great choice for us,” says Mirante. Additionally, Mosler's collaborative management style and his sense of urgency in resolving problems make him a good fit for the job.

Even some of Cushman & Wakefield's fiercest rivals say Mosler's promotion is a smart move for the company. “He is more of a Mr. Outside Person, plus there's just a whole new energy level,” says Stephen Siegel, chairman of global brokerage for CB Richard Ellis.

Siegel is familiar with Cushman & Wakefield's culture and history because he was an integral part of it. Siegel served as the company's CEO for four years during the early 1980s. “Arthur was a terrific CEO,” says Siegel. “In fact, he was my choice, my successor, 20 years ago. After a certain time period you go on and do something new and exciting. I think it's a good move for all three — Arthur, Bruce and the company.”

Barry Gosin, vice chairman and CEO of Newmark & Co. Real Estate, who has served as CEO of the 75-year-old Manhattan-based real estate services firm since 1979, observes that Mosler has been grooming himself for this job opportunity his entire career. Gosin likes Mosler's credentials. “First, he's a broker. He's done everything they've done, so he understands how brokers think,” says Gosin. “He's a people person, he's intuitive and he's fair. And he's a good cheerleader.”

An Industry in Flux

Mosler's ascension to the top of Cushman & Wakefield comes amid intense competition to grow market share and attract top talent. As this issue was going to press, the company announced that Joseph Harbert, who most recently was vice chairman at rival firm CB Richard Ellis, will become COO of the firm's New York region.

In terms of sheer size, CBRE has bragging rights. According to NREI's Top Brokerage ranking published in July, CBRE reported the total dollar value of leasing transactions and investment sales completed in its shop in 2003 was $83 billion compared with $40.2 billion for its next closest competitor, Cushman & Wakefield.

But as the appointment of Harbert demonstrates, Mosler intends to be bold. “We have a debt-free balance sheet and we intend to be aggressive in our growth,” he emphasizes. “It's important for people to understand that we will not lose our culture in this process. It's not about a mega-merger.” Domestically, Mosler wants to concentrate the company's capital in the top 25 markets. The company also will look to grow organically and via acquisitions in the East, Midwest and West, though Mosler declined to identify specific markets.

Globally, there is still plenty of market share up for grabs, particularly in China and Asia, according to Mirante. The company's fastest-growing operations are in India, where Cushman & Wakefield now has five offices and is particularly strong in tenant representation. During the past 18 months, Mosler and Mirante have traveled the globe to meet with international employees, partners and clients as part of the transition in leadership. This year alone, Mosler has traveled to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Korea, London, Brussels and Paris.

“The first thing you have to recognize is that this is a job where people need to be inspired by you being there face to face,” says Mosler.

‘A Born Leader’

In 1992, Mosler was chairman and CEO of Riverbank Realty Co. when he merged the firm with The Galbreath Co., which needed to strengthen its position in the New York City brokerage arena. In fact, the newly formed Galbreath/Riverbank Co. (later the name reverted back to The Galbreath Co.) became New York's third-largest, full-service real estate firm at the time.

Dan Broos, now a partner with Atlanta-based Brighton Partners LLC, which specializes in private equity investments, joined The Galbreath Co. as COO in 1995. Broos describes Mosler as “a born leader who knows how to bring people together and push things forward.”

Galbreath had 17 offices scattered around the country, and the challenge of the management team was to build a more cohesive, integrated company. “In terms of Bruce's acumen as a manager, he was someone who understood people and their motivations and what drives them,” says Broos. “He was good at getting people to do what they didn't want to do.”

Mosler put as much energy into a 10,000 sq. ft. leasing deal as he did a mega-deal, says Lizanne Galbreath. And his tenacity yielded results. In 1998, Mosler shared the Real Estate Board of New York's “Deal of the Year Award” for co-brokering the mega-deal that consolidated Reuters world headquarters at 3 Times Square. The 855,000 sq. ft. transaction was one of the largest in New York City that year.

Mosler was the ultimate broker, according to Galbreath, who is now a managing partner of Galbreath & Co., a Connecticut-based investment firm. “That's frankly why I'm so proud of Bruce. That he has been able to mature and develop to act in a leadership role, I think is a real tribute to him.”

Laying the Ground Work

Mosler's agenda includes ramping up the company's mortgage brokerage business, which currently accounts for $2.5 to $3 billion in debt placement annually, principally in the New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. markets. Mortgage brokerage is a crowded but fairly fractured market, Mosler says, which presents Cushman & Wakefield with an opportunity for growth by offering a broader cadre of services to its clients.

“The same folks who have come to rely upon us for dispositions should be able to rely upon us on a national, if not a long-term international basis, to find and place debt on their behalf. It is consistent with our client needs.”

The company is becoming much more aggressive in the hotel investment sales arena. Earlier this year, Cushman launched a hotel transactions group anchored by investment sales specialists Thomas McConnell and Paul Fitzpatrick. In July, Leslie Ng joined as a senior managing director in the group. Ng previously served as senior vice president of mergers and acquisitions for Wyndham International.

The move was both a synergistic play and an effort to broaden the firm's investment sales capabilities across all property types, says Mosler. “Our hotel valuation department is one of the strongest in the country. It just seemed a natural extension of what we do in valuations. These folks [in the hotel transactions group] are building a national practice for us.”

From a corporate structure standpoint, Mosler is hopeful that a deal will be struck by the end of the year that would enable Cushman & Wakefield to buy back 45% of the firm. The Rockefeller Group, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Estate Co., currently owns 72% of Cushman & Wakefield. “It's important to vest more people in ownership of Cushman & Wakefield stock, both from a retention and acquisition perspective,” says Mosler.

Promoting racial diversity within the real estate industry also is high on Mosler's agenda. When Hewlett-Packard selected Cushman & Wakefield as its exclusive real estate service provider in the Americas in 2001, the giant PC maker was emphatic in its request that Cushman parcel out some of the work to minority real estate professionals.

In the spring of 2003, Cushman & Wakefield established a marketing alliance with Concordis Real Estate, owned by nine independent minority and women-owned real estate firms across the U.S. Concordis seeks to identify and capitalize on strategic, financial real estate opportunities. Through the alliance, the two entities develop and refer business to each other.

Ivan Boone, president of Concordis, says Mosler's commitment to the alliance has proved to be instrumental in opening up doors. “It's validating to know that the president and CEO is very personally involved in what you are doing. I never expected to be that close to the leadership of Cushman & Wakefield,” says Boone. Through the alliance, Concordis companies have landed numerous assignments involving Hewlett-Packard, he adds.

The Challenges Ahead

It's imperative that Cushman & Wakefield evolve into a more diversified company in the years ahead, says Alvin Dworman, chairman of The ADCO Group, a Manhattan-based real estate owner and developer whom Mosler worked for in the mid-1980s, putting together brokerage deals. Specifically, Cushman & Wakefield needs to be more of a player in the real estate investment banking end of the business, says Dworman.

“To be really good in the business today you have to be able to fund transactions,” says the seasoned industry veteran. Stated another way, Cushman needs to compete with the likes of Credit Suisse First Boston and UBS.

In order to broaden the scope of its operations, Dworman says, the company will need to make some acquisitions. “To be competitive, they've got to use their capital. That's his challenge — to utilize the capital in the proper manner. Because if he doesn't do that, he can't keep up with the Joneses [the other full-service real estate firms.]”

Having walked a mile in Mosler's shoes as a CEO of a real estate brokerage company, Galbreath believes that Mosler's biggest challenge will be to successfully lead a global real estate services company that at its core is essentially a local business.

“It's hard to keep consistency across the world, so that when you hire Cushman you know what you are getting,” says Galbreath. “Cushman is known for a lot of really bright, very aggressive brokers which are hard to manage.”

Mirante says that on his watch, assembling top leadership teams in Europe, Asia and Latin America was a priority as the company expanded globally. Today's fiercely competitive brokerage climate means greater emphasis is being placed on hiring the best and brightest at all levels of the organization, not just at the leadership level. “To win business and to be seen as a preferred service company, you have to offer clients better information and superior analytical skills,” says Mirante. “It's all about the caliber of the people you have on the ground interfacing with your clients.”

Some might conclude that the challenge before Mosler is a daunting one, given all the internal pressures and client demands, not to mention the fierce competition. But as Dworman says of Mosler: “He's very aggressive and he never quits working. His attitude is he wants to win.”

Mosler is the first to acknowledge that running a global empire is much different than being in the trenches as a broker. In bridging the gap from rainmaker to real estate executive, Mosler has learned the art of patience.

“In management, it's about having patience to allow the plan or the vision to develop successfully, not to keep tweaking, not to rush to conclusions,” Mosler says. “Having come from a [brokerage] world where things were driven by a sense of urgency has given me a good backdrop for doing what I do. But you have to adjust.”

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