Power Broker

The Storm Chaser: Alexander Chudnoff on Post-Sandy NYC Recovery Efforts

Alex Chudnoff.

Alexander Chudnoff, a commercial leasing broker who takes pride in strengthening relationships with clients through “impeccable service,” was especially busy in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

The Jones Lang LaSalle executive managing director was dividing his time last week between volunteer efforts in the Rockaways, where he provided hot pizza and coffee to storm victims, and getting on the phone to make sure his Downtown Manhattan clients could stay open. Though it was a difficult time, the activity of making connections was just what attracted Mr. Chudnoff to the business in the first place.

“I love to make calls. I love to canvass,” he said. “I like to develop the relationship.”

In some cases, the storm required short-term arrangements, such as lining up space with other clients or in Jones Lang’s own offices, he said. In others, clients were able to proceed with minimal disruption, as when Dentsu Holdings USA returned to work at 32 Avenue of the Americas when Rudin Management opened the building the Monday after the storm. Read More

The Sit-Down

Colliers International Pres. Joe Harbert Hopes to Recreate His Success at ESG

Joseph Harbert.

In May, Joseph Harbert left brokerage and services firm Cushman & Wakefield after eight years managing the company’s New York City brokerage operations, switching to Colliers International, where he assumed the role of eastern regional president. The move offered Mr. Harbert a higher-level management position and oversight of a broader geography in an ambitious company eager to compete with more established brokerage powers. Mr. Harbert dished with The Commercial Observer about leaving Cushman, Colliers without Mark Jaccom, Howard Lutnick’s aggressive tactics, wooing Howard Grufferman and his relationship with the late Edward Gordon.
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All the Twists and Turns Behind Times Square Theater, Last Week’s Most Creative Deal of the Year Winner

Times Square Theater.

Marvel Comics kicked the tires for a proposed flagship store and theme restaurant based on the comic book publisher’s legion of mutant superheroes. Burger King considered changing the 1920s-vintage theater into “The World’s Largest Burger King.” Even the professional grapplers from the World Wrestling Federation envisioned the domed auditorium as a studio-slash-retail-slash-performance space, where wrestlers would fight as diners ate their suppers. Alas, like the other contenders, the WWF walked away.

And so it went for the brokers and potential tenants seeking to fill the old Times Square Theater, a space so pockmarked with hidden challenges, prohibitive rent requirements and aging infrastructure, that the quest to find a suitable tenant lurched on for an entire decade, from shortly after George W. Bush’s election as president to the second half of Barack Obama’s first term in office.

Considering the false starts and dashed hopes C. Bradley Mendelson and Alan Schmerzler faced while negotiating their drama-filled deal last year for 217 West 42nd Street, an award ceremony on par with the Tony’s wouldn’t have been out of the question.

“We ran into a recession, we ran into 9/11, there was a lot of stuff going on,” said Mr. Mendelson upon winning the Real Estate Board of New York’s coveted Most Creative Deal of the Year award last week at the 14th Annual Retail Awards at the 101 Club. “We actually should have gotten an award for keeping the agency for as long we did.” Read More

Power Broker

Stuck in the Middle With You: Jersey to the Left, Downtown Brooklyn to the right, Bruce Surry excels in lower Manhattan

Bruce Surrey.

Bruce Surry stumbled into lower Manhattan much the way he got into brokerage in the first place: by seizing on opportunities as they arose.

It was the mid-1970s and Mr. Surry was a sales executive at Xerox. He was successful at the firm and had risen enough in the company ranks to become manager of one of its main Manhattan branches offices, at 60 Broad Street. Yet there was something repetitive about the corporate life. For years he’d been feeling it and he was more ready for a career change than perhaps even he knew.

An avid poker player, Mr. Surry said he met the legendary brokerage executive Edward S. Gordon, who ran the eponymous brokerage company often referred to simply as ESG, at a late-night card game. They immediately clicked, and Mr. Gordon got to thinking that Mr. Surry could be a valuable member of his burgeoning business.
For one, Mr. Surry knew a host of corporate clients from his time at Xerox, the kind of clientele Mr. Gordon was already trying to cater to by taking a more sophisticated and analytical approach with his brokerage services company—a focus that would eventually make him a pioneer in the business. Read More

Power Broker

Richard Baxter Dishes on the Drama Behind the Deals at Casa Lever


It was lunchtime at Casa Lever, the high-end restaurant in the iconic Lever House, and Richard Baxter was on his BlackBerry negotiating.

It was a busy year for Mr. Baxter and his colleagues at Jones Lang LaSalle. His four-man team comprised some of the city’s most prominent brokers of large-scale commercial office buildings, and as the Manhattan sales market’s post-recessionary thaw continues, Mr. Baxter estimated that the group had tallied an impressive $1.3 billion in deals this year.

Three days before Christmas, however, it wasn’t one particular skyscraper Mr. Baxter was bargaining over from his plum seat at Casa Lever. In a year-end rush, his group had loose ends to tie up, deals to close and transactions still in the works. And so, on this particular Thursday amid a bustling lunch crowd, Mr. Baxter was not negotiating with a buyer or a building owner, but rather one of his own assistants, whom he was asking to stay late to receive critical documents and to help get the team through the rest of the day. Read More

The Re-enrolled Old-Schooler

Ask anybody who knew the late, great real estate entrepreneur Edward S. Gordon, and you’ll hear words like “integrity” and “tenacity” bandied about.

For veteran broker James Emden, who counted him as a friend and mentor, those qualities served as a bellwether during a three-decade-plus run at Gordon’s eponymously named firm and Read More