Howard Lutnick has taken fire for what some say was his heavy-handed approach in buying Grubb & Ellis and pressuring brokers to stick through the acquisition by holding their commissions. Do you think that was justified, or is that exactly the kind of behavior that will make picking up talent easier for you?
Howard is incredibly smart and he’s bringing more Wall Street practices to the table. You can’t fault a company for trying to hold onto employees. I don’t have any negative thoughts about that. He is giving them an opportunity to take advantage of so-called bonuses and invest them in the company stock, but remember that stock has returns on it. But it changes what is traditional in a brokerage operation and it probably needed a lot of explaining and hand-holding and actually selling to the employees why this is a good thing. Instead it happened so quickly they weren’t able to probably explain it properly and perhaps that changed the perception of it. Would I have done it differently? I don’t know. I haven’t seen anyone major leave, so over time I think these things will fade.
Will you end up hiring any brokers from Newmark or Grubb & Ellis?
There are still a couple of free agents out there. Howard Grufferman is out there from Grubb. Everyone is recruiting him, he was their top broker for something like three out of the last five years.
Are you talking to him?
I am talking to him. I spoke to him for about an hour and I’m due to talk to him again in 20 minutes.
How did you end up getting the job at Colliers? Did they approach you or did you approach them?
I got a call from [Colliers CEO] Dylan Taylor and he said that he had heard great things about me, which is a great selling line. And he said, I am going to be in town and I would like it if we have a cup of coffee. I didn’t think it was a recruitment call, I just thought he was trying to pick my brain. He’s a smart guy.
Where did you go for coffee? Starbucks?
No it was nicer than Starbucks. It was an Italian place. We had espresso. We wound up talking for an hour. Then we met again for lunch. We didn’t talk about me. I thought he wanted to say hello. In this industry, everyone is always picking each other’s brain to get the inside dope. Finally, he said we have a lot of needs at Colliers and you’re the kind of guy we’d look to and we’d love to talk. I said I am happy at Cushman and am not looking to go anywhere, but he was persistent. He painted a picture of a larger role and he’s a good listener. Some of the most fun I had in life was at Insignia, building their national platform, and he picked up on that and talked to me about Boston and Washington and how it would be an East Coast role and how he needed someone to be his partner and develop the business, and he said I think that guy could be you and if you’re interested I’d love to talk to you or someone you could recommend. And I started thinking about it and realized that maybe I have completed my tasks at C&W and it might be a good opportunity.
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