In Los Angeles commercial real estate circles, the most popular topic of conversation these days isn't about the most recent leasing deal. It's about one of the city's biggest deal makers: John C. Cushman III.
Industry professionals across town are buzzing with speculation that Cushman is poised to announce the sale of his powerful brokerage company--Cushman Realty Corp.--to nationwide giant Cushman & Wakefield Corp.
The combination would dramatically strengthen Cushman & Wakefield's presence in Southern California and Texas and allow Cushman Realty's brokers to take advantage of a company with much larger financial resources. The deal would also unite companies that share a common name and history.
"It's actually a pretty good fit," said CB Richard Ellis broker Whitley Collins. "Cushman [Realty] doesn't have a global platform and . . . in Los Angeles [Cushman & Wakefield] doesn't have a big operation doing corporate work."
John Cushman, who has been involved in some of the country's biggest real estate deals over the last 30 years, said Thursday that "I'm not in a position to comment" and referred inquiries to Cushman & Wakefield. Officials at New York-based Cushman & Wakefield declined comment.
Though his firm is far smaller than Cushman & Wakefield, John Cushman, who recently turned 60, remains an influential industry player with a national reputation. Cushman Realty recently won the plum assignment of helping Seattle-based Boeing Co. find a new headquarters after Cushman himself made the sales pitch before Boeing executives, according to real estate brokers.
Some industry observers said the combined companies would have to overcome major differences in corporate cultures.
Cushman & Wakefield is a giant, privately held corporation that, in partnership with the British firm Healey & Baker, operates a worldwide network of 140 offices staffed by more than 9,000 employees.
In contrast, Cushman Realty, headquartered in downtown Los Angeles, is considered a boutique firm with only 11 offices nationwide and a fiercely entrepreneurial culture dominated by John Cushman's personality.
But with no clear successor to John Cushman, the chances of Cushman Realty's remaining independent are slim in an era that favors much larger, global real estate players, industry observers say.
"Companies across the board are looking for more exposure and larger [brokerages] to help them with a myriad of issues," said Nico Vilgiate, a former Cushman Realty broker now working for rival Insignia/ESG in Los Angeles.
Founded more than 20 years ago by Cushman and his twin brother, Louis, Cushman Realty has worked with a long list of Fortune 500 companies--ranging from Arco to Citicorp to Walt Disney Co.--and an equally impressive roster of developers, including Los Angeles-based Maguire Partners. John Cushman, working in Los Angeles, serves as president and chief executive of the company while Louis Cushman, company chairman, is based in Houston.
A merger would reunite the Cushman brothers with the company that was co-founded more than 90 years ago by their grandfather J. Clydesdale Cushman and Bernard Wakefield in New York. After working for Cushman & Wakefield for several years, John and Louis Cushman left the company to found Cushman Realty in 1978.
In the 1980s, John Cushman helped fill many of the new skyscrapers built in downtown Los Angeles.
Cushman has also been a developer, building high-rise offices in Long Beach and Burbank, and is an owner of the Zaca Mesa winery near Santa Barbara.