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Bob Knakal

Thu, Mar 7    12pm

With a career that began in 1984 after graduating from the Wharton School, Bob Knakal has brokered the sale of a staggering 2,329 properties in New York City, accumulating a market value of approximately $22 billion. His legacy is deeply tied to the unique success story of Massey Knakal Realty Services, a company he co-founded with Paul Massey in 1988. The company’s revolutionary approach, dividing the city into small territories and fostering true market experts, propelled them to dominance in the New York City market.

From 1984 to 1988, Mr. Knakal worked at CB Commercial (the predecessor company to CBRE) where he met Paul Massey. The two partnered up and left CB to form their own company, Massey Knakal Realty Services in 1988 after running the investment sales group there for their last two years.

From 1988 to 2014, Massey Knakal sold over 6,000 properties in NYC having an aggregate market value in excess of $23 billion. CoStar Group, the aggregator of real estate market information, began tracking the market in 2001. From then through 2014, Massey Knakal was on top of the chart for most properties sold every year and over that period of time, the #2 company sold just over 1,300 properties while Massey Knakal sold 4,002 – lapping the field by more than 3x.

The company’s success was not just about numbers but was rooted in a commitment to training, creating market experts, and embracing a Servant Leadership approach. Knakal attributes the company’s outsized results to these factors, and in 2006 and 2007, appraisal firm Miller Cicero produced reports showing their sales occurring at prices 31.5% higher than the market average.

Reflecting on the Massey Knakal experience, Knakal emphasizes the importance of building a company culture that values each team member’s contribution. The focus on training, from initial success to continuous improvement, and the implementation of a Servant Leadership approach, fostered a sense of responsibility and camaraderie.

In December of 2014, Massey Knakal was sold to Cushman & Wakefield. Mr. Knakal’s pride in what was accomplished at Massey Knakal is summed up in the fact that today in New York City, there are 29 companies, or divisions of companies, involved in investment sales, that are owned by, or run by, folks who learned the business at Massey Knakal.

Mr. Knakal then became the Chairman of NY Investment Sales at C&W and in 2018 joined JLL as the Chairman of NY Investment Sales bringing 53 people with him, all of whom worked together at Massey Knakal.

Mr. Knakal is widely considered to be one of the most prominent thought leaders in the business, having written hundreds of articles and white papers on a variety of topics for a variety of publications and is quoted in the press thousands of times per year. He also makes regular appearances on national television networks to discuss real estate such as Fox, MSNBC and CNBC.

He regularly lectures about real estate at such schools as the Wharton School, NYU, Baruch, Fordham and Columbia.

Mr. Knakal’s legacy extends beyond real estate. Philanthropy is ingrained in his core values, and he is deeply involved in charitable activities, especially those benefiting disadvantaged children. Serving on boards, supporting after-school programs, and volunteering at organizations The Prescott Foundation for Children, Ice Hockey in Harlem, Ronald McDonald House, YMCA and Shema Kolaniu. He has consistently demonstrated a commitment to giving back to the communities in which he lives and works.

Even after selling Massey Knakal for $100 million in 2014, Mr. Knakal shows no signs of slowing down. He continues to sell buildings with the same enthusiasm and vigor that he has demonstrated throughout his storied career. Mr. Knakal’s story is not just about real estate; it’s a testament to leadership, philanthropy, and the enduring impact of a values-driven approach in business and putting other’s interests ahead of his own.

Organized by the M.S. in Real Estate Development Program at Columbia GSAPP. This event is open to Columbia University affiliates with a valid university ID.