Cushman & Wakefield looks overseas for new opportunities

By Jessica Miller

For Cushman & Wakefield inc., the key to global growth is the one-two punch of strategy and the infrastructure to support it. And that approach has helped boost business for the New York-based firm. Cushman & Wakefield claimed the No. 2 spot in NREI's Top Brokerages ranking this year with a global total of $37.7 billion in investment sales and leasing transactions recorded in 2001 compared with $31.8 billion in 2000 -- a hefty 19% increase. The company ranked No. 4 on last year's survey.

"I think when you are in a market like we are in, where the growth isn't there, your company needs to gain in capital market share," says David Gialanella, executive vice president of retail services for Cushman & Wakefield. "We go overseas because we think there's business there."

For Cushman & Wakefield, globalization has been a building process. "First, you've got to establish a corporate strategy to figure out where you want to be and you've got to build your infrastructure to get there," he says. "We're there. We've got 147 offices in 49 countries, but we operate as one company."

For example, the firm orchestrated its "International Deal of the Year" -- the sale-leaseback of a 340,000 sq. ft. campus facility in Singapore for 3-Com -- through a joint effort by its Singapore brokerage team and the Cushman & Wakefield New York Consulting and Strategic Advisory Group.

Of course, expansion overseas presents several obstacles, not the least of which is that differing cultures can stand in the way of communication. For example, Gialanella cites the South American countries of Brazil and Argentina, which don't share the same language, let alone similar cultures.

"Our strategy was to focus on Sao Paulo, Brazil, and get a partner with a recognized name," he explains. Because of that partnership -- with Sao Paulo-based SEMCO S.A., a property manager with a 7 million sq. ft. portfolio -- Cushman & Wakefield is now Brazil's top facilities manager, opening the door for potential brokerage business as well.

But Gialanella emphasizes that guarding core domestic assets is a significant element of successful globalization. "One of the overriding strategies for a global firm is you want to protect the business you have here in the States because there's an increasing amount of pressure put on us to service business overseas," he explains.

To that end, Cushman & Wakefield merged with Los Angeles-based Cushman Realty Corp. in 2001 to strengthen its brokerage force, especially in the West, Southwest and Rocky Mountain areas of the U.S.

It also looks to domestic deals with high-profile participants to shore up its U.S. business. Domestically, one of the firm's most prominent transactions was its representation of BV Development LLC in the $44.7 million sale of a 181,000 sq. ft. West Tower in Brighton, Mass., to WGBH Educational Foundation in May 2002.

The move allows WGBH -- the Boston Public Broadcasting Co. -- to consolidate all of its television, radio and educational activities from more than a dozen buildings into the 7-story property near Harvard Square. The firm joined other high-

profile tenants at the Brighton Landing site, which also is the world headquarters of athletic retailer New Balance.

For Cushman & Wakefield, domestic deals such as the sale of Brighton Landing build the foundation for successful global expansion.

"It's part of that whole future interest of protecting your core," Gialanella says, "and capitalizing on a market."