Jersey Boy: A Day in the Life of Cushman & Wakefield’s Chuck Kohaut

Commercial Observer tagged along with Cushman & Wakefield's Chuck Kohaut on June 18 to observe him in the field

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Chuck Kohaut is a broker to watch. The 31-year-old is coming up on nearly five years at Cushman & Wakefield (CWK), where he’s a senior director in the firm’s debt equity, debt and structured finance group. An expert at finding capital, Kohaut has completed more than $9 billion in financings over the course of his career, and splits his time across two Cushman offices, one in Manhattan and another in East Rutherford, N.J.  

Commercial Observer tagged along with Kohaut on June 18 to observe him in the field. 

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061824 kohaut 1 low res Jersey Boy: A Day in the Life of Cushman & Wakefields Chuck Kohaut
PHOTO: Ben Fractenberg/for Commercial Observer

6:30 to 9 a.m.
105 West 13th Street,
New York, N.Y.

Chuck Kohaut wakes up at 6:30 each morning with his bag already packed for the day ahead. The former high school

swimmer lives in Manhattan’s West Village, and typically spends two to three days per week driving though the Lincoln Tunnel to Cushman’s East Rutherford office, where he specializes in the New Jersey submarket and surrounding metropolitan area. 

While fielding calls, Kohaut exercises at the building’s gym. If he has time, he’ll wolf down a cup of coffee and a smoothie — almost always oat milk, plant protein, banana and berries. 

“It’s rare that I have an uninterrupted hour at the gym,” says Kohaut. “Usually, I’ll have the place to myself, but I generally end up taking a call or am on a pipeline call.” 

061824 kohaut 3 low res Jersey Boy: A Day in the Life of Cushman & Wakefields Chuck Kohaut
PHOTO: Ben Fractenberg/for Commercial Observer

 

9 to 9:30 a.m.
New York City Subway — 1 Train

If he’s in C&W’s Manhattan office, Kohaut takes the 1 train underground from the West Village to 1290 Avenue of the Americas in Midtown. He usually answers emails or takes a call that finds him cutting out from his client every stop or so. But, in a free moment, he reflects on how far he’s come in less than a decade, when he began as a leasing broker for Colliers out in northern New Jersey, and drove from site to site to physically examine each property. 

“I was out on days like today, in a suit, driving around in my car without air conditioning with the windows down,” he recalls with a laugh. “A lot of times I’d wear a penny and get there and change in the parking lot on a hot summer’s day.”

White board in an office.
Photo: Ben Fractenberg/for Commercial Observer

9:30 to 9:45 a.m.
Cushman & Wakefield — 1290 Avenue of the Americas, seventh and eighth floors

Arriving at his office, Kohaut huddles with David Bernhaut, C&W executive vice chairman of metropolitan area capital markets, to discuss a “staple deal” the firm is working on — in which the brokerage is representing both the buyer and the seller — for an office property in Greenwich, Conn. Kohaut spent the first half of his career on the investment sales side, where his sole job was to find buyers for the CRE properties he represented. Today he finds the money to make transactions whole for buyers, sellers and developers. 

“I feel like a utility player. I’m now 100 percent equity and debt sourcing, but [the communication with Bernhaut’s team] allows us to be very cohesive in how we operate,” explains Kohaut. “I know how to approach a deal from that side, because it’s where I spent most of my career early on.”

Chuck Kohaut
PHOTO: Ben Fractenberg/for Commercial Observer

9:45 to 10 a.m.

Before a big meeting, Kohaut huddles with his core team members: senior associate Jason Blankfein, senior associate Meredith Donovan, associate Chris Meloni and associate Mitch Rothstein. The group typically juggles 20 to 30 deals simultaneously that are all moving at different paces, from initially fielding calls and marketing efforts to closing negotiations and completing transactions. The team hunts for capital anywhere capital is needed, but works with Bernhaut’s investment sales team under C&W’s “one entity” model. “We position ourselves on the market and act as one investment sales team, because in today’s environment, to be really competitive and accretive as a capital markets adviser, you need to have the whole playing field: investment sales; corporate capital markets; debt, equity and structured finance,” says Kohaut. “Everything I’m working on is staffed with one or two of these four teammates, so it’s usually a great time to catch up and see what’s going on with deals and with personal stuff.”

Chuck Kohaut.
Photo: Ben Fractenberg/for Commercial Observer

10 to 11 a.m.

Every Tuesday, C&W’s structured finance experts hold court in a conference room to go over deal flow. Here, Vice Chairman John Alascio, Chuck’s boss, leads more than 20 brokers through every single transaction in the pipeline and receives updates on where things stand with marketing, closing negotiations and official closings. C&W Executive Managing Director Chris Moyer and Steven Kohn, Chair of debt, equity and structured finance, also take part in the meeting, and everyone enjoys giving helpful commentary or making playful jokes as Chuck gives a rundown on his deal flow. “Really, it kind of keeps myself and the team accountable for the deal timeline, and it keeps me apprised of what the rest of the team is doing,” says Kohaut. “Because we’re off doing our own thing for most of the week, it’s just helpful to have a dedicated time when we’re all together and you can pose questions and ask for feedback.”

Chuck Kohaut.
PHOTO: Ben Fractenberg/for Commercial Observer

11 a.m. to Noon

Chuck spends the next hour working with his associates and helping a new hire better understand Cushman’s CRM system, a new tool that uses AI to streamline deals into the firm’s back end to make it easier for brokers to log deals, search for clients, and link transactions together for greater efficiency. “A lot of what makes our firm coordinated is we have national pipeline calls, and our ability to add value to our clients is contingent on our knowledge of what else is going on in the market,” explains Kohaut. “Having partners coordinated across the country, who are working on three or four times the deals we’re working on, gives us better insight into the market.”

Chuck Kohaut.
PHOTO: Ben Fractenberg/for Commercial Observer

Noon to 12:30 p.m.

There’s a big client call at noon. Here, Chuck speaks with a borrower raising debt to buy an office building in Connecticut. Chuck is meeting with the seller shortly for lunch, and the client wants to make sure all their bases are covered before that meeting. Chuck listens carefully to his client’s concerns and makes a list of all the points he should bring up later. “A lot of what we do is managing expectations. It’s knowing the ins and outs of the financing process and advising on it,” says Kohaut. “But a lot of what I do is say ‘Hey, don’t worry about this, it’s fine, we’ll work through this, we’ve done it before,’ or saying ‘Here’s what I need from you to be able to get the lenders more comfortable.’ “Broker is a misnomer. We’re advisers,” he adds with a smile.

Chuck Kohaut.
PHOTO: Ben Fractenberg/for Commercial Observer

12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
Jupiter — Rockefeller Center

Chuck and David Bernhaut sit with the seller of the office building in Connecticut. The meeting is both cordial and intense, as the trio go over the fine points of the deal. Midway through, Chuck takes a call from his client at the table to ensure everything is communicated to exact specifications. He’s speaking and listening simultaneously. Chuck orders a Mediterranean chicken dish, while Bernhaut, a vegan, gets a salad. “It’s so important to have this face-to-face problem-solving time, because so much gets lost in emails, texts and calls,” says Kohaut. “I think it helps my case with my borrower to say, ‘Cushman, as a whole, is in front of it,’ and it helps the seller to say, ‘I’ve talked to everyone at the table and we’re confident this will get done.’”

Chuck Kohaut.
PHOTO: Ben Fractenberg/for Commercial Observer

1:30 to 2 p.m.
1290 Avenue of the Americas

Back in the office, Chuck and his senior associates, Blankfein and Donovan, have a pair of interns join them for a meeting with E.J. Gregory, a lender at NLG Capital. Gregory has flown in from Atlanta for the meeting, where he takes Chuck’s team through the different asset classes and price points he’s willing to lend on. Chuck’s job is now to find borrowers for Gregory’s capital, or bring Gregory’s capital into the right type of deal, most likely as a bridge loan or construction takeout financing in the $5 million to $25 million range. “That was very helpful. We get outreach like that from lenders and capital partners all the time who want to share their program,” says Kohaut after the meeting. “He can send you all the paper via email, but without having the opportunity to talk it through in person, it doesn’t always click in your mind to say, ‘Oh, of the thousands of lenders that reach out to us on deals, finding the one who will do it will require that type of nuance we just talked about.’ ”

Chuck Kohaut.
PHOTO: Ben Fractenberg/for Commercial Observer

2 to 4 p.m.

Chuck returns to his office to finish up some items before heading out for several events. The deals ebb and flow, and some never close even after months of work. Other deals, in fact many deals, close only after years of effort. Chuck recalls 15Fifteen, an obsolete office property along Route 10 in Parsippany, N.J., that he began marketing nine years ago at Colliers, but closed last year at Cushman for $147 million — after much blood, sweat and phone calls. “You don’t have to hit on every deal to be a good adviser. Sometimes deals will fall through and that’s the right thing to happen, sometimes the capital isn’t out there,” he says. “It sucks when deals fall through, it sucks when you can’t find groups to lend on something you feel passionate about, especially when your clients are people you’re close with, you want those to happen, but the business is round.”

Chuck Kohaut.
PHOTO: Ben Fractenberg/for Commercial Observer

4 to 5 p.m.
Avra Restaurant — 1271 Avenue of the Americas

Chuck has one final meeting before heading uptown. He meets friend and colleague Cordelia Meserow, a CRE professional at Harbor Group International and former associate director at UBS bank. Messerow serves alongside Chuck on the management committee of Real Estate Ascending Leaders, a networking organization that aims to bring together young CRE associates and executives working in New York

City. They share laughs and exchange industry intel, sitting outside.
“The part I love most about my job is as you get further in your career, and hopefully work with more people you

want to do business with, it becomes talking to friends all day on the phone,” he says with a smile. “You’re solving problems, working through hard issues, but you’re dealing with people you want to deal with, and to me that’s the best part of the business: working on deals with clients who are friends. … It makes the whole process more enjoyable.”

Chuck Kohaut.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Chuck Kohaut

5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Yankee Stadium — the Bronx

Chuck heads uptown to Yankee Stadium, where one of his best friends, Mike Sole, is being honored on the field for receiving a living donor liver transplant from Jon Sole, a Yankee employee who is also a close friend. The gang get to hang out together during batting practice and take in the sights and sounds of the most famous stadium in baseball. Chuck grew up with these guys, and he recognizes his New Jersey roots help fuel his good fortune in CRE.

“I grew up in Morris County, N.J., which definitely helps inform my specialties in commercial real estate,” he says. “I’ve always focused on the New York metro suburban markets, and that’s a big part of why I was brought to Cushman and what I focus on now.”