Arthur Mirante, Avison Young’s newly minted tri-state president, told The Commercial Observer in an exclusive interview yesterday evening that he is joining the company to build a brokerage firm from the ground up at what he described as an opportune moment in the industry.
“You have professionals who have reached a level where they don’t think they can continue to grow, maybe it’s crowded at their firm or their managers aren’t showing them the right kind of appreciation,” Mr. Mirante said. “I think that brokers see smaller companies as a greater opportunity to determine their own success whereas the larger companies might anoint relationships and kind of play favorites, holding some brokers back.”
Mr. Mirante’s move drew attention in the industry because of his prominence and the apparent daring behind the decision. Mr. Mirante was Cushman & Wakefield’s chief executive for 20 years before switching to pursue brokerage at the company in recent years. He is now stepping away from the firm, which employs 13,000 people globally and has 200 brokers in the city, to essentially start a business from the ground up.
Mr. Mirante embraced the challenge, saying it would allow him to shape the new firm’s culture and hire selectively.
“We’re going to focus on building something new, something with a foundation of team work,” Mr. Mirante said, hinting at the fractured bands of competing dealmakers and internal conflicts many brokerage firms are often said to have. “We’re going to be very client focused.”
Avison Young is a Canadian real estate services company with limited operations in the U.S. and virtually no presence in the city. Last year it hired former CBRE executive Greg Kraut to establish an outpost in Manhattan. So far, the operation has a total of about four people Mr. Mirante said and occupies a small temporary office space at 245 Park Avenue, a far sight from C&W’s sprawling corporate headquarters on Sixth Avenue.
The challenge of establishing a foothold in a city with major competitors like Jones Lang LaSalle and CBRE, who have hundreds of employees, vast services line, global reach and public access to capital, would seem daunting. But Mr. Mirante pointed to recent events in the industry such as the acquisition of Newmark Knight Frank and Grubb & Ellis as evidence of an industry-wide shakeup that has cast several talented dealmakers into the marketplace and made others consider career moves.
Mr. Mirante’s hiring was seen as a big move by Avison Young to bring on a well-known personality in the business with the credibility and reputation to attract hires.
Mr. Mirante anticipates that the firm will expand quickly.
“I would be disappointed if we didn’t have 30-40 brokers in the next 24 months,” he said. “Provided we can find the right people and right fit, productive people who have the right concept of collaboration and teamwork.”
Avison Young, according to Mr. Mirante, is currently in search of office space in which to grow. Mr. Mirante diffused initial speculation that he had made the switch to effectively leave brokerage and return to management, stating that he would be very involved in leasing, business development and hiring. Mr. Kraut, he said, will be the company’s top New York executive and will look after the operations of the firm.
Mr. Mirante said that leaving C&W was a difficult decision. For the past two years, he had worked closely with Bruce Mosler, another former C&W chief executive. The pair had won several large brokerage assignments, including leasing Manhattan West, an office complex planned for the West Side and also the large portfolio of office buildings owned by landlord Charles Cohen.
“I am going to miss working with Bruce,” Mr. Mirante said. “We’re very different people but for some reason we always seemed to do well together and we like each other so much. That’s the only down side here for me, having to walk away from that.”