10-Minute Talk: Bruce Mosler, Cushman & Wakefield
Becoming an industry mainstay in New York City calls for a player of high caliber, and Bruce Mosler has a pair of the Real Estate Board of New York’s “Most Ingenious Deal of the Year” awards as evidence of his acumen. Yet since joining Cushman & Wakefield in 1997, Mosler has operated on a global level, whether advising corporate clients on their real estate portfolios or serving as C&W’s CEO between 2005 and 2010.
Two years ago, he returned to his roots as a broker while taking on a new challenge: chairman of global brokerage for the firm. His new assignment went into effect as the real estate markets, domestic and overseas, were shaking off the doldrums of the 2008-2009 recession, and Mosler tells Real Estate Forum that the recovery still has a way to go.
Just before year-end 2012, Mosler spoke with Forum managing editor Paul Bubny about the global real estate markets, his role in bringing C&W’s resources to bear in those markets and the importance of community involvement. An edited version of that conversation follows.
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Paul Bubny: How do you define your role as chairman of global brokerage?
Bruce Mosler: My principal responsibility is production. In that capacity, we serve a number of clients that are global in nature. One of the largest and most complex that we’re handling is Brookfield Office Properties’ Manhattan West, which we’re marketing on a global basis. In the banking and communications industries, there are some longtime clients that I service on all six continents.
I’m also there to help support and pursue global business, so when our London team is pursuing a major agency in London, I’m part of the presentation and part of the strategy as to how we’ll market that asset to attract the right tenants. Lastly, I’m responsible for bringing our people together on an annual basis to discuss best practices: what we’ve learned and how we do it from here on in. If we’ve done a large transaction or want a large portfolio, we can discuss why we want it and, in cases where we haven’t gotten it, why we didn’t. It’s also an opportunity to bring people together to discuss the strategic direction of the firm as defined by CEO Glenn Rufrano, and give Glenn an opportunity to talk to top producers around the world. More importantly, it’s a way to put names to faces, so that our people around the world know one another.
Bubny: From your vantage point as chairman of global brokerage, what does the world market look like?
Mosler: We came through the Great Recession of 2008-2009 with a significant amount of pent-up demand. In 2010 and 2011, we saw the benefit of that demand. In Manhattan, for example, we leased 30-plus million square feet in 2010, and that was one of the best years we’ve had since we’ve been keeping track. That was very reflective of CEOs coming through the downturn and being able to predict their revenues with more surety. In the second half of 2011, we saw that surety begin to deteriorate.
Internationally, let’s begin with Asia. There’s a little less certainty and perhaps a slowdown in GDP, but I’m still optimistic that Asia as a continent will continue to outperform. In the Eurozone, we’re seeing a predictable adjustment, and clearly the Eurozone is walking through what happened in the US. They’re trying to create a common governance, with Germany driving that bus, and trying to understand how they will go forward to deal with differences in economies and cultures. I believe the euro will continue to go forward as the common denominator, and while there may be some folks that will fall out, there’s no question about the long-term survival of the euro.
There has been some lack of visibility in the Eurozone that has created some challenges for CEOs. Just as there was no quick solution to overleveraging in the US, so there’s no quick solution in the Eurozone. That will take time to work through.
In the US, we’ve been through the worst of it, and the current lack of visibility has to do, to some extent, with what’s happening in the Eurozone, the EMEA and Asia. That creates a little bit of consternation and exposure for US global businesses trying to parse through. And you can’t talk about the US without talking about the unknown as it relates to the debt ceiling and some of the regulations needing further clarity, so that financial institutions understand where they need to hold their reserves and where the do’s and don’ts are in regulatory control. But I expect pent-up demand in 2013. The year will improve as it progresses.
Around the world, we continue to see a recovery that focuses on the gateway cities. In the US, more than half of total dollars invested have gone to just six gateway cities. However, we’re now beginning to see interest in other industry-driven cities, such as Seattle and Houston, where people see a strong potential for growth.
Bubny: You’re also one of the leading figures in the leasing environment. What are your clients telling you at the moment?
Mosler: I would characterize my client base as a broad mix between institutional and entrepreneurial, and while they’re beginning to get more clarity in the euro area, which means that there isn’t a quick solution, their concerns in the US are focused on some of the things I discussed before. There’s a very high priority on what’s going to happen in Washington. When areas like Dodd-Frank become clearer and when they know where they must go, they can begin to understand where they can grow their businesses and how they will grow their businesses. That, in part, is what’s causing the slowdown in decision-making. People are unclear and unwilling to take risk until they have a bit more clarity. There’s no chief executive who can risk increasing his or her expenses and growing the business until he or she can predict how to grow the revenue model.
The good news in all this is that companies have gone through it and have adjusted their expense base. Most are working through profit and some have seen the most significant profits in the history of their business. That gives you a little depth to work with as you formulate a plan for the future.
Bubny: Within Cushman & Wakefield, you’ve long been seen as a mentor and role model to younger up-and-coming team members. How does this fit in with what you see as your role within the company?
Mosler: I’ve always enjoyed working as part of a team. I can’t think of an assignment that I’ve won or a deal that I’ve executed where I was the single individual involved. The world in which we work today is complex, and to win assignments you have to bring tremendous resources to bear. One of the reasons I wanted to stay with Cushman & Wakefield after my time as CEO is that I feel we have the best global platform. We don’t profess to be the biggest, but we do profess to be the best when it comes to people, resources and our presence in the key global markets.
For me, working with a team means bringing people like Michael Rotchford of our investment banking team to the table, or working with a young person like Ethan Silverstein, who has the energy to be out there every day to canvas the types of tenants that we want to pursue. It means I get to work with a plethora of extraordinary people like Josh Kuriloff.
To win complex assignments, you have to bring different people of different skills and different backgrounds. The senior teams partner together to pursue the most challenging and interesting assignments. Every transaction we do has to be sensitive to the balance-sheet needs of our clients and their objectives. To have the kind of resources that we have and the investment the company has made in these areas are the primary reasons I stayed on for the next challenge as chairman of global brokerage. I felt we had the resources in place for me to succeed.
Bubny: Outside of C&W, you’re quite active in organizations such as the Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum. Give us a sense of how volunteering and being part of the community is a key part of being in this industry in general and C&W specifically.
Mosler: Among people who are long-term players here, we’ve always had a commitment to the communities in which we live and work. Essentially, the practice of the firm is: give back in many different ways. As young people, you don’t have to give back monetarily, but you do have to be well-rounded. We want them to participate with their time, and as they mature, we want them to become leaders in these organizations, be it their church or any of the extraordinary charities that are out there.
For me, it has always been part of what I consider to be the C&W culture. The people who stay here and succeed here understand that it’s part of the company’s credo. And Glenn has continued that. From CEO to CEO, the expectation has always been that you think of more than just yourself. We want to be looked at as a leader in the charitable side of the equation, just as we are seen as a leader in real estate.