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With Transaction Market Taking Off, Cushman & Wakefield Sharpens Services to U.S. Investors

Recent Realignment Focused On Providing Single Point of Contact for Major Clients Who Make Up Outsized Share of C&W's Transactional and Recurring Revenue
April 16, 2014
John Elkann, the New York City-born, Agnelli family heir who is chairman and CEO of EXOR and chairman of Fiat S.p.A., was also recently named chairman of Cushman & Wakefield. Image Credit: EXOR
John Elkann, the New York City-born, Agnelli family heir who is chairman and CEO of EXOR and chairman of Fiat S.p.A., was also recently named chairman of Cushman & Wakefield. Image Credit: EXOR
It's been a busy month for Cushman & Wakefield. With big changes already well under way in the C-suite and solid 2013 results fueled by strong capital flows and improving real estate fundamentals, the New York City-based global commercial real estate services has embarked on a major restructuring in the way it provides services to U.S. property owners, particularly to institutional investors and other top clients.

To drive investment and growth in the business, Cushman in March created a new U.S. Investor Services Group led by former Chicago team leader Shawn Mobley. The new internal group will serve as a single point of contact for providing integrated services for property owners and be comprised of capital markets, agency leasing, and asset and property management services, bringing together teams that formerly operated separately across the firm's 124 U.S. offices.

Last week, the new unit made its first significant move, naming Steve Everbach, market leader for C&W’s Dallas/Fort Worth office, to also assume leadership of its U.S. agency leasing platform.

Other major competitors are hardly sitting on their hands. CBRE is making changes to its asset management team, bringing back Norman Bertke as executive managing director of the firm's Asset Services division.

Changes In the C-Suite

In the latest of several changes in C&W's executive leadership in recent months, the New York City-based global CRE services company this week named John Elkann to take over as chairman of its board, replacing Carlo Barel di Sant'Albano, who will fill the newly created position of international CEO. Elkann already serves as chairman and chief executive of Exor SpA, the investment company controlled by Italy's Agnelli family, which is Cushman & Wakefield's controlling shareholder.

Cushman "is one of EXOR’s largest investments and we are strongly committed to supporting its development, helping it to achieve its full potential as a premier global real estate firm," said Elkann, who is also chairman of Italian auto company Fiat SpA.

Further underscoring the company's emphasis on its capital markets and investment services business, former Goldman Sachs executive Edward Forst took over as CEO of Cushman & Wakefield in January, replacing Glenn Rufrano, who resigned last June.

Amid the restructuring and executive moves, Cushman & Wakefield earlier this month reported $2.5 billion in revenue for 2013, up from $2 billion in 2012. Annual operating income increased 14% during the same time period to $91.4 million for 2013, the company said.

CoStar News connected with Everbach and Mobley this week to discuss the changes to C&W's U.S. investor services platform, which also include the promotion of William (Bill) Magner to president of U.S. markets.

"We have relationships with all the top owners and investors in the world," Mobley said. "We’re providing services all along the asset life cycle right now across the globe for these institutional owners. The idea of Investor Services is to make sure we have that knowledge and expertise in the platform knitted together as closely as we can, and bring it to bear on our clients’ opportunities and challenges."

Bringing capital markets, property management and agency leasing together, is "part of a constant process of realigning and bringing out the best ideas so there’s no white space between us and our clients," Mobley added.

"We have 200 offices in more than 60 countries, and we manage about 1 billion square feet globally. The coordination of that information and expertise is an immense exercise."

Consolidation among investment clients, particularly in the REIT space, has created both opportunities and added a layer of complexity for CRE service providers.

"When you talk about really increasing your market share, some of that is the great bread-and-butter, one-off transactions, but another part involves those top institutions, which are complicated and require a special focus and expertise. And that’s exactly what Investor Services is meant to address."

While all companies arguably feel more comfortable and confident about reorganizing and investing in their businesses to take the fight to the competition in the recovering economy, C&W's restructuring is driven by the needs and input of clients, Mobley and Everbach said.

"We spend a tremendous amount of time with our clients trying to understand what they need and helping them strategize to achieve those goals," Everbach said. "The alignment of our investor services is a direct result of what we've heard from our clients."

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