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Merging forces for stronger unit.

Michael Wolff says Newmark Real Estate Services got a great deal when they brought him into their business.

"No one else has the maturity," he explained.

As a commercial broker for more than 20 years, Wolff says, while he is a good broker, he wasn't good at running his former business, the brokerage company, G.W. Michaels.

"I was well liked and we made a lot of money but I wasn't a good businessman," he recalled recently.

Wolff merged the talents of his boutique firm with Newmark Real Estate Services in January, and he currently holds the title of executive managing director.

In some ways, perhaps, Wolff was too good a negotiator, giving raises to the troops whenever he took more money but groaning under the weight of small business paperwork.

"Michael focused more on making money," agreed broker Amy Sussman Katz who along with Leslie Harwood came to Newmark with Wolff.

"He's the best," she continued. "He's a phenomenal broker but he will give you the shirt off his back."

Wolff says he recently realized the brokerage field was changing and deals weren't being made based on friendships or expertise any more. "The idea that everybody is chasing the same people," he explained, "makes it a very difficult business."

The last straw came when a friend, who was president of his own company, couldn't give business to Wolff because other executives wanted a larger brokerage house. "The business is totally different than it used to be," he lamented.

No matter how much personalized service Wolff could provide, he found the clout and prestige of a large company was something many clients required.

"Talent and your ability to execute the business only get you so far," he said, "and then you have to be part of where they want to play the game, because relationships only get you so far. So we got the idea of becoming part of something bigger."

When Wolff called his broker friends, they agreed there was only one place to go: Newmark. "I think it's easier to go to a place that has the energy to grow," he says of his new firm.

They also "don't believe in their own publicity," Wolff adds, remarking on the camaraderie that he feels exists throughout the entire company.

Katz said Wolff gave her the opportunity to continue to work with him while she started a family, which now includes two children. "He was very sympathetic," she noted. "His family is very special. He has an amazing wife and two great kids."

At Newmark, Katz said, she is finding the same kind of family orientation.

"The firm is very young and everyone is very understanding of me having a family," she says. "No other firms are geared to young mothers."

Wolff found this similar feeling when he and Newmark Service's president, Barry Gosin, decided to meet one weekend and chatted for two hours at a Westchester diner. Wolff recalls that they didn't talk about a job or the business.

"We talked about our children and what was going on,' he recalled. "And when I got home I said: You know what? I really like this guy. All things being equal, this is where I want to be.' Everything kind of worked itself out.

G.W. Michaels had a niche in the marketplace consisting primarily of 40,000- to 60,000-square-foot deals. "It wasn't necessarily more of them but I had better control over them and that market,' Wolff noted.

The firm was founded by by Wolff and a partner, the late Michael Godt, after they met at Julien J. Studley.

A Duquesne University graduate, but a "medical school reject," Wolff did a stint in the Army before taking a job - "having no knowledge of what was going on" - with Julien Studley, who he considers now to be a good friend.

"When you come into a business and your father drives a laundry truck rather than being with a law firm your sense of where you are going to get your business from is a little different," he explained.

Wolff says he went against the grain and developed relationships with tenants in Long Island City because everybody used to talk to him there. "In Manhattan, they throw you down the stairs," he quipped. "I saw that this was something I could really do well in."

He and Godt sold a number of buildings on 57th Street to LeFrak and soon started their own firm, G.W. Michaels. "We had a very good first year, '69 to '70," he remembered, "and then the market seemed to dry up. We were living on our receivables." Godt eventually moved out to Colorado where he later died. Wolff began running the business, which by then was thriving. "With the territory came a fancy car, fancier relationships, free tickets to events," Wolff explained, pointing to a drawerful of Knicks tickets. Arthur Lerner would kill for these," he said referring to Newmark's vice chairman. That's why they're locked up."

"He's really a ticket broker and not a real estate broker," ribbed Katz.

A former college basketball player, Wolff keeps a hoop in his office, as well as a mounting collection of hats.

G.W. Michaels developed a solid reputation representing firms such as Cityberg Bancorp; Colgate-Palmolive; Kolberg Kravis Roberts, the American Civil Liberties Union, Bechtel; Hudson Securities Inc., U.S. Shoe, Hart & Marx, the Vertical Club and Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Whenever there was a problem, Katz saw, Wolff "always knew how to bring everything to the next level."

One time, she recalled, she needed a signature and the approval of a new landlord, an off-shore company. Wolff knew someone who knew someone else who represented someone with a power of attorney and they got the required signature in record speed.

"You build up the kind of business and relationships," he said, "so that people will look at us and say 'that's a great firm."'

When Wolff made his decision to join Newmark, Harwood and Katz accepted offers to follow. The duo has exclusives such as Bernard Mendik's 305 East 63rd Street property, known as the Decorative Arts Center. "It's the first time Bernie ever gave an exclusive to an outside firm," noted Katz.

Harwood is the former chair of the Young Men's/Women's Real Estate Association and is co-chair with Bruce Mosler of the Real Estate Board of New York's Economic Development Committee.

Wolff is an adjunct professor of commercial real estate at New York University's Master of Science Program in Real Estate. Among his civic. activities, Wolff serves on the Board of Overseers of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and is founder of the Real Estate Division of the American Organization for Rehabilitation Through Training (ORT) Foundation.

He is present of the Hommock's Park Ice Rink Association in Mamaroneck, is a member of the Larchmont Recreation Committee and a board member of the Larchmont Junior Soccer League.

Now, at Newmark, which represents owners and tenants and manages 23 million square feet of space, Wolff says he is acquiring relationships with brokers that are younger. "They are interested in my energy and my knowledge," he laughed, or, "is it their energy and my knowledge?"

"Newmark's a great firm," Katz added. When you come to a larger firm, there is an incredible amount of energy, but the information! You find out so much more information."

Wolff maintains a number of exclusives and is trying to see how they integrate with Newmark's properties.

"I feel stronger working with a group - working with Barry-it's exciting," he admitted.
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Title Annotation:firm of G.W. Michaels merges with Newmark and Company Real Estate Inc. Newmark Real Estate Services Inc.
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:May 26, 1993
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