In 2002, Susan Kurland, the subject of this week’s Power Broker profile, won the coveted “Most Creative Retail Deal of the Year” award from the Real Estate Board of New York. Ms. Kurland, an executive vice president at CB Richard Ellis, spoke to The Observer about the craziness behind her deal on behalf of American Girl and its New York flagship store at 609 Fifth Avenue.
Can you tell me the story behind how you earned the Real Estate Board of New York’s coveted ‘Retail Deal of the Year’ award?
We originally had a lease out at Rockefeller Center, but, in the end they ended up at 609 Fifth Avenue, at 49th Street. American Girl is owned by Mattel, but when I started working with them years ago Mattel didn’t own them yet. The day the lease was supposed to get executed the then-chairman of the board of Mattel was fired. Pleasant Rowland was the founder of American Girl-and poor Pleasant, because the chairman at the time gave her a check for $750 million for the business. They weren’t in retail yet, it was a catalogue company.
But because the chairman was fired, I got this very upsetting call on a Friday. Pleasant was hysterical and highly embarrassed. The deal couldn’t get signed because the chairman had been fired—and it was a big lease and nobody was taking responsibility for it.
The chairman was fired right as the company was about to lease its first location?
Chairman and everything was dead, or falling apart. And, of course, my only comment was, ‘Why did you have to call me on a Friday and ruin my weekend?’
So did the deal die on the vine?
It wasn’t until a year later that they get a new head of real estate, a new CEO and all that stuff. And so the man who’s now the global head of real estate for Mattel—completely coincidentally—sees all these files and sees my name. So he says, ‘Well, I might as well try Susan. She’s already done a lot of work here.’ He calls me out of the blue and says, ‘The new CEO came in. I met with him. They’re ready for the deal.’