Money Never Sleeps: Newmark Is Aiming for the Capital Markets Crown

CEO Barry Gosin has a plan to cultivate commercial real estate’s top capital markets practice at his firm. That has included some major hires.

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As the commercial real estate industry prepares to enter the fourth quarter, it also finds itself in the eye of a storm. The headwinds it’s faced for more than a year now — from interest rate uncertainty, to a loan maturity wave, to office sector woes — continue to howl, sending several firms running for cover.

But not Newmark (NMRK).

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Barry Gosin, the firm’s CEO, sits back in his chair at 125 Park Avenue as he reflects on his firm’s recent wins during an extraordinarily difficult and uncertain market period. Behind him, visible through a glass wall, a brokerage floor bustles with activity.

“Look,” Gosin said. “If you’re a great broker and you want to be in a company that understands, appreciates and respects talent, this is the place for you.”

Now more than ever, talent is king at Newmark — and, while talent acquisition has been just one of the pillars of the firm’s success, that particular pillar is seemingly made of chromium. 

On Feb. 15,  Newmark announced it had snagged two of the industry’s most prolific investment sales brokers: Doug Harmon and Adam Spies, along with their team from Cushman & Wakefield. 

The news had been a long time in the making, although few knew it. Gosin had tried to hire the duo back in 2016, when they were contemplating their next move after leaving Eastdil Secured, but ultimately he lost out to C&W.

“It broke my heart,” Gosin said. “Doug called me with the news and didn’t have too much empathy.”

He laughed.

“I then got a call from someone else that I’d recruited from Cushman who said, ‘How come you missed those guys?!’ just to dig it in. But, I’m relentless — and, six years later, we got them.”

“They weren’t quite ready for us [in 2016] and we weren’t quite ready for them,” Harmon said. “We were ships passing in the night, but I think it helped us, in that when we were both ready it was seamless. It was like a very good first date that kept going effortlessly until we all committed.”

The wait was apparently worth it.

Just six weeks after Newmark finally put a ring on it, the firm landed the $60 billion Signature Bank loan portfolio sale mandate — perhaps the most significant assignment in recent market history — to be led by the twosome’s team along with John Howley, an executive managing director at the firm. 

While the mandate alone heralded the next chapter in Newmark’s book, the hiring of Harmon and Spies also furthered Gosin’s goal of having the top capital markets practice in the country.

Capital gains

A man in his office
Barry Gosin. Photo: EMILY ASSIRAN/for Commercial Observer

Though Newmark’s leasing chops are impressive, Gosin said he viewed leasing as too broad a segment of the market in which to earn the No. 1 spot, but he felt that the firm had the right expertise to build on and eventually take the crown in capital markets as a more concentrated sector.

He describes Newmark’s capital markets business as “fledgling” prior to 2015, so the firm got to work.

In 2015, Newmark acquired Apartment Realty Advisors, 16 companies that specialized in multifamily sales. The same year, it hired Rob Griffin and his team from C&W in Boston and Kevin Shannon from CBRE as co-heads of capital markets. And then it hired several other capital markets experts away from competitors nationwide, including Steven Golubchik from HFF in San Francisco in 2016 as well as, more recently, Rick Reeder and Brad Tecca from C&W; Barry Gabel, Gary Carr and John Alvarado from CBRE; and Chris Murphy from JLL, to mention just a few.

With each year that passed, Harmon said he began to view Newmark as an increasingly viable contender in the field.  “They had gone public [in 2017] and we watched them grow into strong competitors,” he said.

As 2022 drew to a close, a tsunami in capital markets was intensifying while Harmon and Spies, having now fulfilled their contract at C&W, were simultaneously evaluating the competitive landscape to determine their next move.

They took multiple factors into consideration while delberating, including which firms they believed had the best chance for future success, the strongest balance sheet to weather the incoming storm, the most complementary talent from coast to coast, the right infrastructure — and the desire to be bigger and better.  They also wanted a capital markets-centric firm that understood the value their team could bring to the entire platform.

“The clear winner to us was Newmark, and our decision has proven to be prescient already this year,”  Harmon said.

And, for Newmark, the Harmon-Spies team with its deep bench of talent and expertise was the missing puzzle piece.

“There is no weak link,” Harmon said of his team. “The next big thing we want to do is build the most relevant capital markets practice in the industry — and we strongly believe that Newmark has that opportunity with us here. This move has given us all a renewed sense of purpose and excitement.”

In the ultimate meet cute, the move also meant that Harmon and Spies’s team would be joining forces with Dustin Stolly and Jordan Roeschlaub — Newmark’s co-presidents of debt and structured finance and two of the most prolific debt, equity and structured finance advisers in the industry.

Roeschlaub joined Newmark in 2014, with Stolly joining in 2017 after nearly a decade at JLL. They didn’t know each other previously.

“I put them together,” Gosin said. “They met over breakfast one day, and it just worked.”

“Over the past five years, and with the additions to our team over the last 12 to 24 months, the face of the whole franchise had changed from being ‘Hey, you’ve got some really talented individuals,’ to us being recognized as a talented firm, holistically,” Roeschlaub said.

Despite the additions, Newmark has remained a lean force, which resonates with institutions, Stolly said. “It’s not too bloated or corporate, whereas some of our peers might have 10 times as many people.”

Roeschlaub also emphasized Newmark’s “talent first” approach versus having dots on the map or a huge concentration of people. 

“The revenue per broker is pretty astounding,” he said. “We have a lot of highly productive, talented people here.”

Both Roeschlaub and Stolly said their individual moves to Newmark were driven by an opportunity for a fresh start at a company that was already growing rapidly.

“Barry gave us a blank canvas to start over,” Stolly said. “We utilized a lot of things that both of us had learned over our careers that were good, threw a lot of things in the garbage that were bad, and we created a true partnership.”

That partnership amounted to $29.1 billion of loans and $5.18 billion of equity arranged plus $1.3 billion of loan sales closed in the 12 months ending March 31, 2023.

“I think there’s also a lack of complacency here,” Stolly said. “We’re intellectually stimulated and driven by finding the next crease in the market, whether it’s the new capital entrant or the sector that resonates in that moment in time, and getting behind it in full force. We’re up at 5 a.m., we go to bed at 10 p.m. and we remain really hungry. We have a desire to be the very best at what we do, and pretty much all the leaders at the company have that same sense of desire.”

As for how the addition of Harmon and Spies will impact their business? “I’m not going to make projections, but it’s going to drastically help from a volume perspective when there are asset sales of consequence,” Roeschlaub said. “It gives us better information arbitrage, and a better suite of services for our respective clients. So, here, one plus one equals 30.”

America’s got talent

It may seem like Gosin has an uncanny knack for picking talent. He doesn’t think so.

“To a certain extent it’s luck, because you’ll interview someone who has a great personality and they’ll fail, and then you interview someone who’s quietly smart, but driven, and they succeed,” he said. “The great thing about this business, and this country, is that anyone can succeed. There is really no impediment.”

Regardless, the shift of talent over to Newmark is creating something of a self-fulfilling prophecy of its own.

“More and more people want to be here, because they want to follow the great people,” Gosin said. “If you’re great, you should be here.”

Elizabeth Hart serves as president of leasing for Newmark’s operating businesses in the U.S. and Canada. She joined the firm in 2005.

“I think these are the moments in time — when there’s a reset in the global market — where brands like ours that have been fast-growing coming into it, taking a little bit of a different approach, have a great chance to accelerate and succeed,” Hart said.

“When we recruit brokers to our platform, they’re often surprised by this very collegial environment where people are wanting to help each other out,” Hart added. “And I think that’s where you can expect the flywheel of Newmark to start spinning faster in this next period of time, because we’ve built out such a strong platform across all the different divisions that when you have something enter, say, the leasing division, that can easily spin into workplace services, into capital markets and into other elements of the business. And I think there’s a lot of opportunity in the next 24 months to lean into that both through our talent, and also through our technology.”

When Hart joined the company 18 years ago, the industry was powered by local market information and local trades, and that hasn’t changed for Newmark, she said. 

“It’s one of the key strengths of Newmark brokers,” Hart said. “They work nationally but are connected to the micro environment, and I think that’s one of the major reasons that we’ve had better success in the last two quarters compared to some of our competitors. We continue to have this really strong local presence that is supplemented by a global platform.”

Newmark has 7,000 employees today. 

“Our game plan is not to be too crowded, but to give runway to really talented people,” Gosin said. “We’re the fourth largest in the U.S. and the fifth largest in the world at what we do, and we still have lots of runway to grow.”

Indeed, Newmark has acquired three companies in the U.K. and a significant footprint in several other countries, including France, Germany and Hungary. 

But Gosin doesn’t want to be the biggest, just the best, he emphasized: “It’s not even a close argument. Being the best is our game plan. We intentionally do not want to be the largest because when you get to a certain size, you have to feed the beast.”

Guns blazing

Gosin has spearheaded every step of Newmark’s evolution over the years, including its IPO in 2017 and its spinoff from BGC Partners in 2018. During his tenure at the firm he also led the acquisition of 60 companies. Perhaps most importantly in this current iteration of growth coupled with market complexity, however, he is someone who has walked the walk.

“When you bring in a gunslinger, they want to know that the guy hiring them knows how to load a six-shooter, even if he has gray hair,” he said.

Gosin was a successful agency broker in New York City before narrowing his focus to the tenant rep side. He negotiated the Bloomberg headquarters deal in 2001, and Morgan Stanley’s 1.2 million-square-feet lease at 1 New York Plaza in 2012, among other transactions. He also built the law firm practice at Newmark.

Assessing the chess moves Newmark has made in recent years against the backdrop of the current market turmoil also makes you wonder if Gosin’s resume includes soothsayer, however. For example, in early 2023, Newmark completed its acquisition of Spring11, an asset management,  loan servicing and loan workout platform, after partly owning it since 2017. In the fall of 2022, roughly six months before Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse, it hired a team that specializes in risk assessment and stress testing for banks.

“We had an inkling,” Gosin said. “Whenever there’s a downturn, banks are pressured to reduce their books, and we thought there would be a good opportunity to assess risk.”

He couldn’t have known at the time, of course, just how big a role his firm would play in the unwinding of one bank’s portfolio.

“Our view of the world is that cycles end,” Gosin said. “As opposed to sitting back on our heels, we saw this period as a generational opportunity to elevate our business and elevate our brand.”

Newmark started to prepare for the end of this cycle more than a decade ago. “We wanted to be better and provide higher alpha for our clients,” Gosin said.

That strategy accelerated in 2018 and 2019, via a continued onslaught of hiring and company acquisitions. In total, Newmark has hired 1,500 brokers since 2018.

When the pandemic hit, Gosin said he felt like a “deer in headlights” and the company momentarily pressed pause, which gave some of the talent he’d hired time to complete their ramp-up period. In the last quarter of 2021, with vaccinations firmly underway and a decline in COVID cases, however, “we blew the roof off,” Gosin said. “We had already hired all these great people, so we were ready to go. We just beat every metric, we beat every peer. And we saw that if you get great talent, not only will it elevate your brand but when the market normalizes you will be in an incredible position.”

Work it

The firm has also been busy bringing additional client services to the table. Again, the firm appeared to be ahead of its time in establishing a workplace strategy group in 2017, headed up by Tamar Moy, three years before “hybrid work” began tripping off the industry’s tongue as commonly as “Sorry, I gotta take this.”

“We’re advising companies on where they should be around the world, where their customers are, where their workforce should be, and how to maximize that,” Gosin said. “We’re working with some of the largest companies in the world, most of which are confidential. The  world of hybrid work is not going away, so we advise our clients as to how to deal with it and optimize their real estate portfolios.”

That’s not to say that Gosin is an advocate of hybrid work at his own firm.

“People fool themselves. You don’t work the same way at home,” he said. “Yes, there are distractions in the office, but just bumping into people in the street, or speaking with people, creates ideas. I can think of examples where one simple conversation led to millions of dollars of business. It’s not every conversation, but all you need is one.”

Also, there’s no pulling the wool over his eyes when pitching the merits of “client golf trips” on a Friday. He’s quick to spot a flub.

“I’ll say, ‘Who did you play with last week?’ They’ll say, ‘Joe, Jack, Johnny.’ I’ll say, ‘Well, who did you play with this week and who are you playing with next week?’ Guess what the answer is: ‘Joe, Jack, Johnny,’ ” he said.

Tut-tut.

Moy joined Newmark six years ago to head up its New York workplace strategy efforts, but her group now works wherever its clients need it. She got her start at architecture design firms, where workplace strategy traditionally lived until around a decade ago.

“I was hearing more and more that clients were coming in saying, ‘I’ve already thought through my workplace strategy, I know what I need,’ ” she said. “We’d say, ‘What do you mean, you’ve already gone through your workplace strategy?’ Then we started to realize brokerage companies were starting to bring in strategists as subject matter experts within the envelope of real estate advisory. I saw the writing on the wall at that point.”

When Newmark reached out to recruit Moy, she thought it was an interesting opportunity to bring over all she’d learned and developed over the years, and also take on a new challenge of advising clients way earlier in the process, before they’d even started to have conversations with their landlords.

“I’ve gotten wonderful support from the brokers here,” Moy said. “I think that they see the workplace conversation as a value-add service for their clients, to be able to bring in experts and be part of the advisory and the consulting side of it as opposed to just transaction-based. The whole feel of the meeting is a little bit softer and more about the people side of the business, which is really the perspective that we bring, as opposed to, ‘Here’s a market update.’ ”

Elsewhere in 125 Park, Spring11 — the firm’s asset management and loan servicing business headed by Benek Oster and Jack Fuchs — is also busier than ever.

Its foundation was built on underwriting and due diligence services, but today it handles myriad cradle-to-grave transactions and loan-level services that complement Newmark’s expanding capital markets activity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the current market environment, a big chunk of Fuchs’s time is currently dedicated to asset management, loan servicing and workouts.

The team prides itself on anticipating and meeting client needs before they come down the pike, aided by its  touch points on roughly $170 billion in loans between its own asset management and servicing portfolio and Newmark’s wider portfolio.

“It’s a rarity — almost an impossibility — for us to not have a solution these days,” Fuchs said. “We’re constantly evolving and thinking about new businesses, and trying to pivot in terms of focus. Being set up with Newmark, we function in a very entrepreneurial environment and can almost always figure out a solution and the resources internally.”

His team also talks to clients regularly and gathers feedback internally from the capital market cycle. As such, he said he can almost feel the distress building as the year closes out and loan maturities soar.

“I think everyone recognizes there’s a huge problem that needs a pretty massive solution.” Fuchs said. “But, to me, the distress piece is a massive challenge but also a massive opportunity for a lot of the better capitalized groups out there, if you can be nimble enough and flexible enough to react to what’s going on in the market.”

A fixation on the continuation of the existing status quo has been some people’s downfall in this downturn, Gosin said. “That’s when you get yourself in trouble: If you over-leverage, you get yourself in trouble. If you over-assume and you lower cap rates beyond a reasonable recognition of past history, you’re in for trouble.”

And, while the industry waits with bated breath for the next Fed meeting, he’s just focused on rates’ stabilization.

“Interest rates have to stabilize, because we need certainty and surety. You can’t underwrite a moving target, and cap rates haven’t established themselves,” Gosin said. “I think once that settles in, that’s when everything reboots and things start again. Now, a lot of the wealth is earned in cap rate compression, so if the reboot is higher, it’s going to dislocate some equity, some people are going to be pissed, and some will have less money. My portfolio is significantly less than it was, but I can live with that. But what’s tomorrow? The world is just waiting for a reboot.”

Cathy Cunningham can be reached at ccunningham@commercialobserver.com