Arthur Mirante is Avison Young’s Natural-Born Leader
Lauren Elkies Schram Feb. 18, 2015, 9:45 a.m.
Arthur Mirante really digs his job—actually only two-thirds of it. He loves new business development and servicing the clients, but the managing director aspect? Not so much. In fact, he plans to hire someone to take over that position within five weeks.
That was a part of the job he assumed from broker Greg Kraut, who left CBRE for Avison Young in 2011, because “this is the best mid-sized hybrid,” Mr. Kraut said.
Mr. Mirante said he “took over Greg’s job as managing director and will give that job back soon” to someone tapped internally or externally.
There’s no bad blood between Mr. Kraut and Mr. Mirante over the job shifting. In fact, Mr. Kraut said he looks up to Mr. Mirante as a mentor and a father figure.
At 71, the Upper East Side resident is actively brokering deals and running the business. He arrives at the office by 7 a.m. daily.
Perhaps most notably, Mr. Mirante is part of the leasing team for the Moinian Group’s planned 3 Hudson Boulevard, a 1.8-million-square-foot mixed-use tower spanning a full city block north of Hudson Yards and across the street from the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
While Bruce Mosler, the chairman of global brokerage at C&W, called the assignment a coup, another high-profile executive said Avison Young won it through a process of elimination.
“Everyone has one [at Hudson Yards],” said the source. “There [were very few firms] left to pick from. Arthur knew the developer-to-be, [Moinian]. He got it by default.”
Another big assignment of Mr. Mirante’s is handling leasing for the 800,000-square-foot Paramount Building at 1501 Broadway between West 43rd and West 44th Streets.
Aside from a little smack talking about 3 Hudson Boulevard his competitors had nothing but kind words to say about Mr. Mirante, personally.
“He’s one of those guys it’s hard to say something negative about,” said Joseph Harbert, the president of the eastern region at Colliers International and who was the chief operating officer at C&W from 2004 until 2012.
Mr. Mirante started his career in 1969 as an attorney working for a small Garden City, N.Y., law firm Albanese & Albanese. But realizing he wasn’t “glib enough, not quick enough,” for the rigors of trial law, he secured a job as an attorney at C&W a year later.
“I always had a draw to real estate,” Mr. Mirante said, but without any tangible real estate experience, he settled on being the firm’s attorney, moving up the ranks to general counsel. Stephen Siegel, who is now chairman of global brokerage at CBRE, became the president and chief executive officer at C&W in 1981, and approached Mr. Mirante.
“He came to me and said, ‘I really need you to become more of a business person and take over the tri-state area,’” Mr. Mirante said.With that, Mr. Mirante became the executive vice president in charge of the New York region, which is incidentally the same job he holds now. In the mid-1980s, Mr. Mirante became the CEO of C&W, a job he held for roughly 20 years until he “got tired,” he said.
“There’s no happiness in that CEO job,” he added, explaining that first there is a victory and that is immediately followed by some problem of the same import. “There’s no time to relax.” Besides, “he wanted to work with clients and do real estate transactions.”
Cynthia Foster, who last month joined Colliers International as the president of office services, was at C&W from 2011 until her departure this year. She was an executive managing director working primarily on New York City-based leasing transactions.
“He’s amazing,” Ms. Foster said. She credited Mr. Mirante with setting up the global practice at C&W. Mr. Mirante, Ms. Foster said, had an expression: “If you’re not global when your clients are global, they’ll travel without you.”
Similarly, Mr. Mosler, who became CEO after Mr. Mirante in 2005, said his predecessor’s vision included thinking globally.
“He was one of the first to think about making the firm global,” Mr. Mosler said.
As C&W’s longest serving chief executive, Mr. Mirante expanded the number of C&W offices to 173 from 60 while increasing its revenue to $1 billion from $100 million.
Mr. Mirante recruited Mr. Mosler to C&W in 1997 and the duo formed a top-level brokerage team at C&W in 2010. Mr. Mosler said he appreciated how Mr. Mirante spent about a year traveling around the globe with him, introducing the new CEO to the executives at the various company offices. “It was a way to have people understand that I had his trust,” Mr. Mosler said.
Mr. Mosler credited Mr. Mirante with having the vision for C&W.
“All I did was execute his vision as CEO, finished implementation in building the business out and continued to emphasize that a brand is built on the back of people,” Mr. Mosler said. “Culture counts. People matter. Those were the ethos that Arthur ingrained in the business and I made sure we continued down that path.”
Mr. Mirante became the president of global client development at C&W from 2004 to 2009. He said he was “having fun” in that post, but that it was challenging to no longer have the power to effect change at the company. For example, Mr. Mirante said, he lost the “power to influence the direction of the company.” At the same time, new ownership came in and shifted the focus away from real estate and more on stock prices and earnings, he said.
Mr. Mirante is a “natural leader,” Ms. Foster said, adding, “Arthur would also get in the trenches.”
A natural leader or not, Mr. Mirante has clearly studied great leaders. His office at 623 Fifth Avenue between East 49th and East 50th Streets is packed with books, many of which are on leadership. Three red-jacketed books, displayed face up on a side table in his office are former Mayor Ed Koch’s The Little Red Book of New York Wisdom; The Person Who Changed My Life, edited by Matilda Raffa Cuomo; and Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace, by Ricardo Semler. He even has a Wayne Dyer book on his shelves.
It was because of Mr. Mirante’s acumen and relationship-building with former Citigroup Chief Sanford Weill and his wife Joan, then chairwoman of the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, that made the Joan Weill Center for Dance happen, Ms. Foster said. The dance company’s new home back then, at 405 West 55th Street at Ninth Avenue, officially opened in 2005. At 77,000 square feet, the eight-floor structure is the largest building dedicated to dance in New York City.
“It was an acquisition of an old industrial building from WNET where they had been filming Sesame Street episodes for years,” Mr. Mirante said. “We acquired the building thanks to a gift, then anonymous from the Weills, and then demolished the building… I got the assignment because I was on the board and worked 100 percent pro bono.”
Relationships were paramount in his last deal as part of C&W, co-representing Mohamed Al-Fayed at 75 Rockefeller Plaza in a $420 million, 99-year triple-net lease to RXR Realty.
“Arthur respects relationships and knows that when you are doing long-term deals, you need to look beyond the numbers to the quality of the people,” said Scott Rechler, chairman and chief executive officer of RXR. “I have seen this play out firsthand many times but it was probably most important when he was advising the family that owned 75 Rockefeller Plaza on marketing a 99-year ground lease. The reams of spread sheets and financial analysis could have become the primary factor that drove the deal, but Arthur knew that the long-term relationship between the parties involved had to take precedence.”
In April 2012, Canada’s largest independently owned commercial real estate services company, Avison Young, announced the opening of its first office in New York City to expand the firm’s market and business-line coverage in the tri-state area. That was the firm’s 13th location outside of Canada.
In a player-coach capacity, Mr. Mirante was tapped to run the tri-state region at the principal-managed and led company that year. Mr. Mirante said he “was brought in the organization as a rainmaker.”
At the time, Mark E. Rose, chair and CEO of Avison Young, said in a press release: “We are extremely pleased to bring someone of Arthur’s esteemed caliber on board to drive the growth of our tri-state market presence. Arthur’s unparalleled industry relationships and expertise in the areas of corporate and business development on a global level will position us strongly to advance our growth objectives in recruiting the area’s top talent, identifying and executing on strategic acquisitions and partnerships, and further developing our corporate and institutional client relationships.
When he read the Avison Young mission statement with a focus on integrity and honesty coming first, he was sold because it’s a “culture that’s a partnership,” Mr. Mirante said. “One hundred and seventy partners own 75 percent of the enterprise.” He likes the collaborative culture.
Mr. Siegel explained the marriage between Avison Young and Mr. Mirante this way: “Avison was one of those companies that was unknown and looking for someone [high-profile to lead the tri-state efforts]. Most of the major companies had their leadership in place. It was kind of a perfect fit.
Mr. Harbert was recruited by Avison Young for the job that Mr. Mirante took, but it wasn’t for him.
“There wasn’t enough to build on,” Mr. Harbert said. “It was starting from scratch. I didn’t think I was a powerful enough figure” to draw tons of good talent.
Avison Young has 1,300 professionals, of which 850 are brokers, in 56 offices in the U.S. The firm has grown to 200 people in four different tri-state offices. “All the service lines are stakes in the ground,” Mr. Kraut said. “Now we’re just looking for a few killer brokers in the market that are culturally consistent with our principles and values.”
Hirings of note on Mr. Mirante’s watch have included John Ryan from JLL, Michael Gottlieb, a top leasing executive at what was then Grubb & Ellis, retail specialist Jedd Nero, who had been an executive vice president at CBRE, and office leasing specialist Adam Rappaport from C&W (although Mr. Rappaport has since left). In addition, Mr. Mirante plans to hire 25 to 30 more brokers in New York City within the next year.
Next month, Avison Young will be tripling the size of its New York City office space through a sublease deal with a Condé Nast subsidiary for 40,200 square feet at Minskoff Equities’ 1166 Avenue of the Americas. Mr. Mirante hopes to secure a Lower Manhattan office at some point.
While Avison Young has had some successes, such as last September’s arrangement of a $25 million refinancing of Staten Island’s Southport Plaza and being named in early 2014 as the exclusive office leasing agent of The Strand Building at 826 Broadway, Avison Young has a long way to go to establish a serious tri-state presence.
Avison Young is “not on the map,” Mr. Harbert said. He added that while there is enough room for more competitors, “I don’t think there’s a chance to get into the top five or six in the short run.”
But Mr. Mosler remained positive on the firm’s outlook.
“Arthur is a natural-born leader,” Mr. Mosler said. “He will be successful. Not everybody needs to be a global player to be successful. I can assure you that Arthur will succeed.”