By Sarah Trefethen
Ronald Lo Russo, Cushman & Wakefield’s newly installed, 38-year-old Tri-State president, knows he has a job to do. But he says he’ll take his time planning his moves.
Lo Russo spent seven years in leasing at Vornado and started his new position at C&W in early March. He’s spent the past month-and-a-half exploring all of the corners of his new domain, he said, and getting to know all the company’s service lines and regions.
“Even though I’m getting involved in a lot off the bat, I am still observing, and I don’t want to make changes too broadly, too sweeping, too soon,” he said. “I have to vet out my strategy.”
But he knows why he’s there. After a few high-profile defections in recent years, Cushman’s leasing activity in the region has lagged behind its competitors.
“I have a strong background in leasing. I don’t think that’s any coincidence. I think that’s why I’m here,” he said.
Recruiting is part of the plan, though Lo Russo is tight-lipped on the details.
“I can say we’ve clearly identified a group that we’re going after, and we’re going after them,” he said.
“We’re not in the position to operate on the status quo and keep things as they are,” Lo Russo said. “We’re definitely looking to gain ground. We’re looking to gain market share, we’re looking to do it in the New York region, and we’re going to be aggressive.”
And even though he won’t say how he’s going to do it, taking the time to get to know the full scope of C&W’s services may feed into the ultimate expansion strategy.
“It’s harder and harder to win business in this business,” Lo Russo said. “You have to be able to offer the services to complement the relationships and the skill sets and the knowledge base. They have to be complimented with the full-service platform.”
It’s not just brokerage that is competitive. His time at Vornado has sensitized Lo Russo to the challenges of today’s office market, where traditional landlords are competing with an increasing number of REITs and other well-capitalized investors eager to take a bite out of the Big Apple.
Staying on top of the market is key, Lo Russo said, in an enthusiastic manner that still seemed to convey real sympathy for any property owner with office space to lease in this market.
“It seems more and more as time goes by there’s always something new in the marketplace,” Lo Russo said. “This is what tenants like for energy conservation, this is what they want for elevator dispatching, this is what they want for their outdoor greenspace. The tech tenants are looking for exposed ceilings — and what do they really need? What’s driving a tech tenant? You really have to get to know who you’re looking for for your building.”
In his new position, Lo Russo will work closely with Suzy Reingold, who has been promoted to chief operating officer of the New York Tri-State Region. He reports to Jim Underhill, president and CEO for the Americas.
“Cushman & Wakefield is focused on hiring and developing the best professionals in the industry, with a focus on our next generation of leaders, and the addition of Ron is indicative of that strategy,” Underhill said in a statement.
Lo Russo graduated from the Stern School of Business in 1996. He has a JD from New York Law School and is licensed to practice in NY and NJ. He is the membership chairman for the Young Men’s/Women’s Real Estate Association and serves on the junior board for New York Cares. His wife recently gave birth to their third child.
Even though he was familiar with Cushman from doing business with the firm’s brokers during his time at Vornado, he said he is still impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit and depth of the culture he’s found at the 96-year-old, privately held company.
At a recent town hall meeting, the company acknowledged employees who had reached milestones in their years of service.
“The anniversaries started at 20 years,” Lo Russo said. “And then it was who was here 20 years, who was here 30 years, who was here 40 years.
“The history in this organization is phenomenal. The amount of people that have been here to see marriages, births of kids and then the grandkids of people — that’s something you don’t ever want to change.”