Bob Knakal Let Go From JLL After Six Years

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Investment sales broker Bob Knakal was abruptly let go from JLL (JLL) on Wednesday, where he has been a top name for six years, a source told Commercial Observer.

With deals amounting to about $22 billion over the course of his career, Knakal is one of most well-known brokers in the country. His departure from JLL is sudden and follows the publication of a New York Times profile about his extensive collection of maps. 

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The source said JLL has been consciously moving away from the historical model of focusing on individual brokers’ star power to instead taking an investment banking approach, putting the client first, the firm second and the individual broker last. JLL’s management saw Knakal’s Times article — which mentioned the brokerage only once — as the antithesis of that, the source said.

Knakal was let go Wednesday with no notice period, the source added. JLL and Knakal did not respond to requests for comment, but Knakal posted about the news on (formerly Twitter) Wednesday night, simply saying “Hi, friends. You may have heard that I am no longer with JLL,” and providing updated contact information.

Hiten Samtani broke the news of Knakal’s departure earlier today in a tweet.

Knakal joined JLL in 2018 after being terminated from Cushman & Wakefield (CWK) where he worked after C&W’s 2015 acquisition of his firm, Massey Knakal Realty Services, for $100 million. His firing from C&W came a week before his contract was set to expire, Commercial Observer reported at the time.

He had reportedly been lining up his next gig when C&W cut him loose.

Knakal got his start in brokerage in 1984 at Coldwell Banker Commercial — a predecessor to CBRE — where he met Paul Massey, according to a column Knakal wrote for Commercial Observer in 2015. (In addition to his brokerage career, Knakal writes a regular “Concrete Thoughts” column for CO.)

After working together closely for several years, the pair decided to strike out on their own and started Massey Knakal in 1988, which became well known for its territory system of putting brokers in charge of specific neighborhoods in the city and giving them a part of the commission if a colleague originated a deal in the area. As the pair started to reach their 50s, they decided to explore a sale since “buyers would perceive those employment contracts to have more value if we were in our 50s, as opposed to our 60s or 70s,” Knakal wrote.

They had some meetings with interested parties on an acquisition, but ultimately decided on CBRE after meeting with the management team at the brokerage.

“Most observers of this process are likely to conclude that the money was what made our decision for us,” Knakal wrote. “It was certainly part of the calculus but, more importantly, C&W was the best fit for us and we chose them for that reason.”

Massey followed Knakal out the door of C&W in 2018, quitting and starting a new firm B6 Real Estate Advisors (which has struggled in recent months).

JLL has seen some talent exit lately, particularly top office brokers Steven Rotter and Howard Hersch who were poached by Newmark in late January as that brokerage continues its hiring blitz.

Knakal’s departure was the latest big shakeup in the brokerage community after Darcy Stacom left CBRE last week after 22 years to start her own firm.

With additional reporting by Cathy Cunningham and Nicholas Rizzi.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.