Commercial firms this week are unveiling glittery midyear stats that all tell the same story: Manhattan office rents are at an all-time high. When leasing brokers digest the news, they’ll kick back in their chairs and think back to all those delicious commissions earned.
But three men have outdone them all.
CB Richard Ellis brokers Scott Gottlieb, Michael Laginestra and Stephen Siegel have taken the term power broker to a new level. If you look at the top 25 deals completed in 2007 and wade through the list of brokers, their names pop up more than any other. If you do the math, these three men have had their hands in more than one-third of the biggest leasing transactions in Manhattan this year.
“You can’t walk a block in the city without pointing to a building where we’ve done a deal,” said Mr. Gottlieb.
“It’s sort of cool,” said Mr. Laginestra. “You take an emotional ownership of the skyline.”
They’re co-opting the big deals in the era that’s all about the big deal. The 650,000- square-foot renewal for Davis Polk? That’s Mr. Gottlieb and Mr. Siegel. The 400,000- square-foot Viacom move to Hudson Square? That’s Mr. Laginestra and Mr. Gottlieb. And there are seven more deals like that.
They’re already established legends in real estate, but this year particularly they’ve eclipsed their previous accomplishments. The three aren’t exactly a team—other than the odd pairing or two, they all worked on the deals separately; but they’re all always there.
“What you’ve got are three good friends who understand each other and are supportive of each other, on and off the field,” said Mr. Laginestra.
The word that seems to fit them all: mensch. Protégés, and even competitors, say as much.
“I have a close relationship with all of them,” said Paul Amrich, the young stud broker at CBRE. “Steve especially has been a great adviser and a friend and extremely supportive and helpful during very tough situations.”
“They are hard-working and creative and they really care about their clients,” said Joseph Harbert, the C.O.O. at rival brokerage Cushman & Wakefield. “You can’t say enough good about them.”
The three are a case study in different brokering styles. There’s Mr. Siegel, the rainmaker who knows everyone in the industry and who dabbles in famed restaurants and $300 million portfolio buys in the Bronx. There’s Mr. Laginestra, the classic Willy Loman-style salesman, with a one-liner always ready (“John, this is your wife’s lawyer calling” is the way he starts conversations with reporters). Then there’s Mr. Gottlieb, the brooding analytic who’s a CPA at heart.
And even with the occasional temptation to play some golf, they are not about to make that sleepy descent into the land of figureheads.
“We worked day-to-day and got down and dirty with all aspects of these deals, especially the larger ones,” said Mr. Siegel.
All of them attribute their success to their loyalty to CBRE clients like Clear Channel or Larry Silverstein.
“Have we leased a lot of square footage? Yeah,” said Mr. Gottlieb. “But we’ve done that in the past and we’ve done it anonymously because we’re not out there promoting ourselves and promoting our success. It’s always about our clients.”
Mr. Laginestra agreed. “If I send an e-mail at 11 at night or 7 in the morning, those two guys will respond within 10 minutes. Sometimes it’s about ‘let’s go out and play golf,’ but more often than not, it’s about our clients.
“I would hope that a part of this article when it comes out—I don’t want this to be an arrogant thing—but if I could title this article it would be ‘These Guys Did X Percentage of Deals but They Spent More Time Worrying About Their Clients More Than The Average Hot Dog.’”