Ray Torto, Pioneer of Real Estate Research and Former Roundtable Research Committee Chairman

Ray Torto

Real estate industry research pioneer Ray Torto passed on April 7 after an accomplished professional career spanning roles in academia, government, and the private sector that included service as chairman of The Real Estate Roundtableโ€™s Research Committee. (Torto obituary)

  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer said, โ€œRay was well-known throughout the industry for decades as an astute leader who offered original insights about the important role of data in real estate markets and its application to national policy. The Roundtable will always remember his valuable guidance leading our Research Committee, and we will miss him.โ€
  • In 1982, Ray partnered with Bill Wheaton of MIT to start Torto-Wheaton Research (TWR, now CBRE Econometric Advisors). TWR was among the first to bring data analysis and econometrics to the real estate industry, paving the way for increased institutional capital investment. See an appreciation by current Roundtable Research Committee Chair Spencer Levy, CBRE Global Client Strategist and Senior Economic Advisor.

After Ray retired from CBRE, he returned to the classroom to become a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Reflecting on his career in an interview in 2014, Ray said that his favorite part of the real estate industry was the many people he worked with over the years. An additional interview from 2017 is available from The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE).

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Real Estate Industry Trailblazer Sam Zell Passes

Sam Zell

Sam Zell, the founder and chairman of Equity Group Investments died yesterday due to complications from a recent illness. Mr. Zell was a leader in modernizing the REIT structure and was well known for his ability to revive distressed real estate assets, as well as turnaround troubled manufacturing, retail, travel, healthcare, and energy businesses. (Fortune and Wall Street Journal, May 18) 

  • Equity Residential, the multifamily REIT Zell founded, released a statement mourning the death of its founder and chairman, noting he led the transformation of the public real estate market, and that under his leadership, grew the company into a $31B apartment owner, developer, and operator listed on the S&P 500 (NYSE: EQR).   
  • Mark Parrell, Equity Residential President and CEO, and member of The Real Estate Roundtable Board of Directors said, “The world has lost one of its greatest investors and entrepreneurs. Sam’s insatiable intellectual curiosity and passion for deal making created some of the most dynamic companies in the public real estate industry.”  
  • Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer said, “Sam was very quick to see the potential economic consequences of policy actions. He was a master of making complex issues simple and he was unambiguous in offering what could always be called a very unique and valuable perspective on national policy issues. His straight talk, clear vision and philanthropic generosity will be deeply missed. “ 

See www.samzelllegacy.com for a video retrospective of his many accomplishments and contributions to the investing and philanthropic communities. 

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John C. Cushman, III, Industry Legend, Roundtable Leader, and Iconic Pillar of Cushman & Wakefield

John C. Cushman, III

John C. Cushman, III—Cushman & Wakefield’s chairman of global transactions, real estate industry titan for 60 years, and one of the founding members of The Real Estate Roundtable—passed away yesterday.

Industry Icon

  • Real Estate Roundtable Chair John Fish (Chairman and CEO, SUFFOLK) said, “As a founding member of The Roundtable, and later as a member of our Board of Directors, John Cushman consistently helped us with his knowledge, his relationships and his voice. John’s legacy will live on in the real estate industry and in the countless communities he touched.”
  • “The loss of John Cushman is a sad day,” said Jeffrey DeBoer, Roundtable President and CEO. “John’s personable and passionate approach to life was unique and inspiring. His sharp focus on structuring real estate transactions to meet the needs of business tenants and building owners was unparalleled. Time and again he rallied the industry to support positive economic and job growth initiatives. He made an enormous contribution to the commercial real estate industry—and to The Real Estate Roundtable’s advocacy efforts. The Roundtable, and I personally, will deeply miss him. We will always remember him as a generous, kind, and thoughtful friend.”
  • Cushman & Wakefield Executive Chairman Brett White said, “John was an extraordinary businessperson and global citizen who significantly impacted Cushman & Wakefield, the commercial real estate industry and broader community.”
  • The Cushman family stated, “John’s successes in commercial real estate were extremely notable but his positive impact on so many careers are what mattered to him even more. John always valued the importance of giving back and was a staunch supporter of many philanthropic efforts. His contributions to so many organizations will contribute to his legacy.” (John Cushman’s community involvement)

An Exemplary Career

John Cushman and Jeffrey DeBoer

(John Cushman with Jeffrey DeBoer at a Real Estate Roundtable meeting)

  • Over the course of his career, John Cushman played an essential role in advancing Cushman & Wakefield to its position as one of the top commercial real estate firms in the world. Prior to his becoming chairman of global transactions and co-chairman of the Board of Cushman & Wakefield, John was acknowledged as the top office-leasing broker in the United States. (List of clients and assignments)
  • He began his career in 1963 in New York City with Cushman & Wakefield, founded by his grandfather John Clydesdale Cushman and his great uncle Bernard Wakefield. In 1967, he moved to Los Angeles to open Cushman & Wakefield’s first office in Southern California. In 1965, as President of the Western Region, he was responsible for 60% of Cushman & Wakefield’s offices in the United States.
  • John and his twin brother, Louis B. Cushman, started their own firm in 1978, Cushman Corporation Realty, which they grew from two offices to operations in 11 US cities with over 200 employees. In September 2015, Cushman & Wakefield merged with DTZ, with the newly formed organization retaining the storied Cushman & Wakefield name. In 2017, John served as chairman of the Centennial Committee for Cushman & Wakefield’s 100th anniversary.
  • Cushman & Wakefield is now among the largest real estate services firms with 52,000 employees in over 400 offices and approximately 60 countries. In 2022, the firm had revenue of $10.1 billion across core services of property, facilities and project management, leasing, capital markets, and valuation and other services.

The Cushman family respectfully asks that individuals who would like to make a gesture in John’s honor visit a national park site or make a donation to the National Park Foundation on behalf of John C. Cushman, III.

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Former Roundtable Chairman Nelson Rising, Industry Leader and Political Activist

Nelson Rising

Nelson C. Rising, a trailblazing real estate industry leader who served as chairman of The Real Estate Roundtable (2000 to 2003), and cofounder and chairman of Rising Realty Partners, passed away yesterday. (Los Angeles Times and BusinessWire, Feb. 10)

Private and Public Sector Leader

  • “Always a gentleman, Nelson Rising chaired The Real Estate Roundtable for three years,” said Jeffrey DeBoer, Roundtable President and CEO. “Nelson emphasized an issue advocacy system built around solid research, positive approaches to issues and an overall focus on the substantial economic and social benefits that strong real estate markets provide to job creation, healthy communities, and a growing national economy.”
  • DeBoer added, “His strategic policy acumen was especially valuable following 9-11 when Nelson was a key leader in the establishment of a national terrorism insurance program. This hugely important work allowed a stalled real estate capital market to reopen. The Roundtable was honored to have his compassionate friendship and his inspirational leadership. We already miss him deeply and will remember him always.“
  • Mr. Rising was an accomplished developer who built iconic projects in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Mission Bay, the largest mixed-used development in San Francisco history. (CREConnect, Feb. 10)
  • “Some of the biggest buildings in America are standing today because Nelson had a hand in it,” said John Cushman, Chairman, Global Transactions at Cushman & Wakefield, Inc., and a friend of Mr. Rising for over 40 years. “We worked together to bring Downtown LA the Library Tower, Gas Company Tower, Wells Fargo Center, and numerous other projects in California and across the country. He could take confusion and chaos and translate it into common sense and bring people back to the table who were yelling. He was a genius in terms of dealing with people,” added Cushman, who is also a member of The Real Estate Roundtable. (Los Angeles Times and BusinessWire, Feb. 10)
  • Mr. Rising served as Chairman Emeritus of Rising Realty Partners, an environmentally conscious real estate investment and operating company headquartered in Los Angeles. The company owns or manages more than 5 million square feet in buildings in California, Colorado, Nevada, Missouri, and Texas.
  • Previously, he served as President & CEO of MPG Office Trust, Inc., the owner of over half of the institution-quality office space in downtown Los Angeles. From 1994-2005, Mr. Rising served as Chief Executive Officer of Catellus Development Corporation. During his tenure, he oversaw the company’s successful evolution from a railroad land company to a diversified development company and a real estate investment trust. (Rising Realty Partners)
  • Mr. Rising was also widely known for his influential role in advising elected officials at all levels of government. He is credited with managing the successful mayoral campaigns of the late Tom Bradley, who served for twenty years as Mayor of Los Angeles. Mr. Rising also chaired campaigns for California Governor and U.S. Senate. He also served as a former chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Mr. Rising received a B.A. with honors in Economics from UCLA on a football scholarship and earned a Juris Doctor from UCLA School of Law, where he served as Managing Editor of the UCLA Law Review. He practiced law at O’Melveny & Myers prior to entering the real estate industry.

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Jim Didion, Real Estate Pioneer, Ex-CBRE CEO, National Realty Committee Chair Emeritus

Jim Didion - In Memoriam

James Jerrett Didion (Jim) – a pioneer in commercial real estate who served as CEO of CB Richard Ellis and as former Chair of The National Realty Committee (predecessor of The Real Estate Roundtable) – passed away on April 2.

  • “Jim Didion was a driving force not only in the commercial real estate industry – his decades of invaluable public service included work on the National Realty Committee (NRC), the predecessor organization that became The Real Estate Roundtable in 1999,” said Jeffrey DeBoer, Roundtable President and CEO.  He added, “Jim joined NRC in 1972, served in a variety of policy advisory roles for years, including as Chairman from 1993 to 1996 and beyond as NRC  Chair Emeritus.  He will always be remembered as a selfless contributor to the common good of the industry, the country and his community.”
  • His real estate career began at Coldwell Banker Commercial, where he rose to become CEO and Chairman of CB Richard Ellis, leading the firm’s growth from $400 million in annual revenues in 1986 to more than $1 billion in 1999.  Mr. Didion has been widely recognized as a pioneer in building a global, fully integrated, professional services business and credited with leading CB to its position as the largest commercial real estate company in the world.
  • Mr. Didion consulted on real estate issues to the Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley and served on the advisory board of the Fisher Center at the Haas Business School, as trustee of Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula and as National Real Estate Consultant to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

A video of his real estate advisory efforts, with his wife Gloria, on behalf of Montage Health illustrates their community participation and involvement.   (Full obituary, Monterey County Herald)

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Real Estate Roundtable Members Stanley Chera and Mayer Greenberg Pass

In Memoriam -- Real Estate Roundtable Members

Real Estate Roundtable members Stanley Chera and Mayer Greenberg, both from New York, passed away this month. 

  • Stanley Chera founded Crown Acquisitions with Isaac Chera Sr. and built it over a span of three generations to include  ownership interest in dozens of retail and office properties throughout North America, including trophy buildings in Manhattan.  He was a member of The Roundtable since 2015.
  • President Trump called out Mr. Chera at a 2019 rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as “one of the biggest builders and real estate people in the world.”
  • Mayer Greenberg, a real estate tax attorney with Kramer Levin was also a member of The Roundtable and an active member of its Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC).  He  advised domestic and foreign investors on the tax implications of complex commercial transactions, including joint ventures, mergers, acquisitions and other business restructurings.
  • Before joining Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP in 2019, Mr. Greenberg was a partner with Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP. 

Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer said, “We are saddened by the loss of two well-established professionals in commercial real estate who participated in The Real Estate Roundtable for several years.  Both Stanley Chera and Mayer Greenberg were generous with their time and expertise in helping their colleagues, the industry and our organization grow and adapt to rapid changes in the policy and business landscape.  We will miss them and we extend our sincere condolences to their families.” 

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Commercial Real Estate Industry Pioneer Marshall Bennett

The commercial real estate industry mourns the recent passing of real estate industry icon Marshall Bennett.  He was 97.  (Chicago Tribune, Oct. 16)

Commercial real estate industry icon Marshall Bennett passed away this week at the age of 97.

  • Marshall Bennett was one of the most successful real estate developers in Chicago and a pioneer of the modern industrial park.  In 1946, Bennett and Louis Kahnweiler, with financial backing from Jay Pritzker, launched Centex Industrial Park in the 1950s on more than 2,000 acres in Elk Grove Village—opening up the O’Hare submarket to large, industrial properties. This facility would become the nation’s largest and serve 1,500 companies. Throughout their partnership, Bennet and Kahnweiler amassed a portfolio of 26 industrial parks around the country. (RE Journals, Oct. 16)
  • Among his many accomplishments, Bennett was a World War II Navy veteran; was inducted into the Chicago Board of Realtors Hall of Fame in 1989; and served on the board of the East-West Institute global think tank. He also co-founded the Chicago Ten, an interfaith group that worked for peace in the Middle East.

Notably, Bennett co-founded Roosevelt University’s Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate in 2002. He helped raise $11 million to start the school as a training ground for real estate professionals. Since its inception, the program has graduated almost 325 in two master’s degree programs. (Crain’s Chicago Business, Oct. 15)