Celebrating its centennial this year, Cushman & Wakefield Inc.’s big splash in Los Angeles came 50 years ago, when John C. Cushman III was tapped to lead the largest leasing challenge the city had ever seen – filling Arco Plaza, now called City National Plaza, a 52-story, 2.6-million-square-foot twin structure downtown.

One study suggested it would take 15 years to lease the building; Cushman said he did it in about three.

“The project was a home run,” said Cushman, chairman of global transactions.

Cushman & Wakefield grew to become the second-largest commercial real estate brokerage in Los Angeles County, handling deals worth $10.2 billion in 2015, including 4,500 leases and 5,700 sales. It was L.A.’s third-largest property management company as of the end of last year, with a local portfolio of 22.8 million square feet.

“Cushman & Wakefield has touched the development of most of the major buildings in downtown Los Angeles,” Cushman said.

But it all started on the other side of the country, when J. Clydesdale Cushman and Bernard Wakefield, Cushman’s grandfather and great uncle, co-founded the Cushman & Wakefield property management firm in New York in 1917.

In 1929, the firm opened a rental office in the General Motors building and soon became a leader in real estate services in the Big Apple. One significant deal early in its history was the sale of the land for what would become the United Nations building.

In 1963, John Cushman began to work for the firm, opening its first L.A. office in 1967 while handling the Arco Plaza deal during a period of national expansion. Cushman & Wakefield also brokered a deal in the late 1960s that led to the building of the Sears Tower in Chicago.

RCA Corp. acquired Cushman & Wakefield in 1969, then sold its stake seven years later to the Rockefeller Group. Cushman left the firm in 1978 and opened a firm called Cushman Realty Corp. with his twin brother, Louis B. Cushman.

By the 1990s, Cushman & Wakefield was expanding its operations further, establishing partnerships with major real estate firms in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

The 2000s were a period of acquisitions for the real estate service firm, including buying Cushman Realty in 2001, with the brothers rejoining the firm.

Italian investment group Ifil, now known as Exor, purchased a 71.5 percent stake in Cushman & Wakefield in a $625 million cash deal in 2007. In 2015, Cushman & Wakefield merged with Chicago commercial real estate firm DTZ in a $2 billion deal, keeping the former’s name and creating one of the largest real estate service firms in the world, with annual revenue of $5 billion and more than 43,000 employees.


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