Jotham Sederstrom March 23, 2010, 7:34 a.m.
Clark Finney had been working as a broker for only four months when he landed his first big deal, a sublease on behalf of a hedge fund owned, not coincidentally, by a friend’s father.
The informal connection paid off for Mr. Finney, who, despite stiff competition for the hedge fund’s business, signed the 4,500-square-foot lease at 140 Broadway as a mere 23-year-old Cushman & Wakefield rookie in the spring of 2007. He quickly capitalized on the transaction with a series of other deals later that year.
But Mr. Finney’s networking dexterity neither ended nor began with the hedge fund deal, a transaction he inked for now-defunct Chaplin Global. Indeed, from his introduction into real estate, which was made possible by family friend and now colleague Gus Field, to the hive of allies he’ll likely lock arms with as the 2010 recipient of the Real Estate Board of New York’s coveted Most Promising Commercial Salesperson award, Mr. Finney has made the most of his enviable web of business alliances.
“Fortunately, I’ve been able to meet a fair amount of people in the city through college or other relationships,” said Mr. Finney, now 26 and sporting a mop of curly dark locks that stand out among his colleagues’ more conservative cuts. “I don’t think the networking has necessarily had an enormous impact on my career yet, but it’s important for long-term business, absolutely.”
None of which is to suggest that Mr. Finney, a Baltimore native with a degree in business management, doesn’t have real estate chops. Last year alone, he tallied an estimated 40,000 square feet in transactions, a figure that boosted his three-year career total to 335,000 feet. The lift can be attributed, in part, to a well-publicized deal he toiled on for Nest Fragrances, which shifted from its 4,000-square-foot Madison Avenue office to a space three times as large, at 601 West 26th Street in Chelsea. Mr. Finney said he had been finessing the relationship for more than two years.
“We really just dug into their business and said, ‘You don’t need to be on Madison Avenue,'” recalled Mr. Finney. “‘You might actually benefit by moving your business to a different submarket where there’s much cheaper rents and a different vibe.'”
Add to that transaction a string of earlier deals, including a sub-landlord disposition at 888 Seventh Avenue that went to a hospitality group, and it becomes clear how Mr. Finney earned REBNY’s Most Promising Commercial Salesperson award, an honor he had been aiming for since 2007. Besides bragging rights, the award allows Mr. Finney the chance to sit among the group’s Board of Governors for an entire year as well as a lifetime membership in its Circle of Winners.
“It’s packed with industry leaders, a lot of landlords and folks that I haven’t had the chance to interact with on a one-to-one basis,” said Mr. Finney, who will attend his first Board of Governors meeting this week. “It’s a great opportunity to bounce ideas off of them and just network with them.”
MR. FINNEY WAS born and raised in Baltimore in a family with a reputation for producing doctors, including his grandfather, a Johns Hopkins-trained surgeon. Although he considered enrolling in medical school to become a surgeon himself, the physically active former equestrian chose instead to attend Washington & Lee University in Virginia, where he played competitive lacrosse and studied business management.
Before entering college, however, Mr. Finney badly injured himself while snowboarding in Pennsylvania. The accident put an end to a promising horse-racing career that began when Mr. Finney was 4 years old (“horse” was his first word) and that allowed him the opportunity to compete at, of all places, Steeplechase Park in Coney Island.
“I went from doing one of the most dangerous sports you could do, and never really getting injured, to nearly killing myself on a snowboard,” said Mr. Finney, who said it took nine months to recover from the injury.
In college, Mr. Finney pursued a degree in business management with the intention of moving to New York with the hope of starting his own company. It was only after a friend, Gus Field, suggested he consider real estate that Mr. Finney engaged in a series of interviews that led to a burgeoning interest in property trading and, subsequently, to a job as an associate at Cushman & Wakefield.
“The more I looked into the real estate world, the more I got an interest in the day-to-day life of what this job is,” said Mr. Finney, who said his approach to real estate is primarily methodical and analytical. “I like dealing with the tangible aspects of buildings, and it intrigued me to work and trade in something that’s physical and real.”
As busy as Mr. Finney has been with his successful real estate career, the broker still manages to make time for his burgeoning philanthropic pursuits. To be sure, Mr. Finney, who lives in the East Village, recently started a charity with a few friends called the Adeona Foundation, which, he said, focuses on supporting underfinanced or under-recognized children-based charities throughout Manhattan. As one could imagine, it’s given Mr. Finney yet another avenue for networking.
“The whole process started as a result of the five of us participating in other charities in New York,” said Mr. Finney, who said the nonprofit foundation was incorporated in May 2008. “We had a large network of young professionals that we felt we could tap into and figured we could do it on our own. It’s been a great way to meet new people in New York.”