The boredom would soon vanish, as Mr. DiRenzo took on an increasingly high-profile portfolio. One of his first big deals, in fact, came early on in his career when, through a travel agency client, he met the head of the toy industry trade association. While dallying with people at Mattel and Tonka Toys, among others manufacturers, Mr. DiRenzo was able to pull off an unlikely get: luring the trade association away from ritzy 200 Fifth Avenue during the 1970s and, subsequently, mogul Harry Helmsley.
“That was the beginning, when it all really, really started,” recalled Mr. DiRenzo, who said Mr. Helmsley eventually retaliated by luring the toy people back to his landmark building.
So was Mr. Helmsley angry with Mr. DiRenzo and his bold power play?
“I would guess it would ruffle my feathers,” Mr. DiRenzo said, laughing.
His most storied deal was on behalf of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which in 1995 began weighing the option of selling a long-term lease of the World Trade Center, following mounting political pressure to turn over some assets to the private sector.
Cushman & Wakefield, said Mr. DiRenzo, became involved with the property in 1997, and a request for proposals was issued soon afterward. Mr. DiRenzo was charged with reviewing all the project expenses as the director of Cushman & Wakefield’s World Trade Center Financial Advisory Consultant Team. What he found was jaw-dropping.
“At the time, the Trade Center was about 10 million square feet and we probably had about 3 million square feet of vacancies,” recalled Mr. DiRenzo, who said that vacancy rates in Lower Manhattan had skyrocketed to a whopping 15 percent. “When you’re going out to sell a piece of property, you don’t want to sell it with that much vacancy—I don’t care who you are. It never works.”
Despite intense interest from investment bankers, Port Authority officials weren’t satisfied with their initial offers and briefly took the property off the market until conditions improved. Two years later, as the economy brightened, tenants returned and so, too, did investors, including developer Larry Silverstein.
“And the rest is history,” Mr. DiRenzo said. “No matter what deal I’ve ever done, I’ve never done it on my own. We have smart people at Cushman—smarter than me. That’s who I like to surround myself with.”