Cushman & Wakefield acquires real estate firms in US and Italy

25 August 2016

Property consultancy Cushman & Wakefield has recently completed three acquisitions. In the US the firm purchased Atlanta-based Multi Housing Advisors and Austin-based Oxford Commercial, while in Italy the real estate advisor picked up Cogest Retail.

With over 43,000 employees in more than 60 countries, Cushman & Wakefield is one of the globe’s largest commercial real estate services firms. The company, founded in 1917 and headquartered in ‎Chicago, supports clients with property advisory, agency leasing, asset services, capital markets, facility services, global occupier services, investment & asset management, project & development services, tenant representation, and valuation.

In line with the firm’s growth ambition, Cushman & Wakefield has in recent months added three new businesses to its footprint. The bolt-on of Multi Housing Advisors (MHA), an Atlanta-based firm, creates, according to the consultancy, the leading multifamily brokerage platform in the Southeast US. Founded in 2002, MHA has sold more than 140,000 multifamily units through more than 850 individual transactions, and in the past five years produced average sales growth of 55% and transaction volume totalling more than $5.9 billion.

The deal sees 13 brokerage professionals and a staff of 35 across offices in Birmingham and Charlotte join Cushman & Wakefield. MHA cofounders Josh Goldfarb and Marc Robinson will serve as Cushman & Wakefield’s US multifamily leaders and will be based in Atlanta and Charlotte. The MHA leadership team also includes Jimmy Adams in Birmingham, Jordan McCarley in Charlotte and Tyler Averitt and Robert Stickel in Atlanta. They join Cushman & Wakefield’s existing Southeast multifamily group led by Chris Spain, Michael Kemether and Brandon Whitesell. 

“Adding MHA exemplifies Cushman & Wakefield’s commitment to growing our capital markets platform, especially in the multifamily sector,” says Noble Carpenter, Cushman & Wakefield President for Capital Markets in the Americas. He adds: “MHA is a seamless fit culturally, which is a crucial element as we combine operations and continue to build momentum.”

Cushman & Wakefield buys Multi Housing Advisors, Oxford Commercial and Cogest Retail

The company’s second acquisition in the US is that of Oxford Commercial, an Austin-based firm that has been serving clients in the areas of commercial brokerage, investment sales, development consulting, market research and related advisory services since 1993. Oxford Commercial has been an alliance partner to Cushman & Wakefield since 2007, and based on the successful collaboration, the global property consultancy has decided to now fully acquire the firm.

“It’s a priority for our firm to have a strong corporate presence in dynamic markets, and this acquisition brings an enhanced competitive edge to our client service support in Austin” explains Mike Smith, President of the West Region at Cushman & Wakefield.

Spencer Hayes, Managing Partner of Oxford Commercial, who will remain as Managing Principal under the new structure, says it is a fitting return to Cushman & Wakefield, the firm he worked with prior to founding Oxford Commercial. “Oxford Commercial’s founding partners purchased the company from Cushman & Wakefield in 1993, so we already feel like part of the family. With the Cushman & Wakefield platform, we are eager to extend our ability to offer aligned services and continue our focus on quality service delivery for Oxford Commercial’s valued clients.”

In Europe, Cushman & Wakefield has bought the entire share capital of Cogest Retail, a retail asset services and leasing firm with a portfolio of 51 shopping centres and retail parks across Italy and more than 1.5 million square meter of floor space under management. Cogest Retail and its approximately 150 employees will be integrated into Cushman & Wakefield’s EMEA Asset Services business – the consolidated business will manage circa 3.5 million square meters of floor space in Italy. 

Commenting on the deal, Joachim Sandberg, Head of Italy and the Southern Europe region at Cushman & Wakefield, says: “This marks a very significant moment for our Italian business. The benefits for employees and clients, as well as the commercial potential, made this a very compelling step to take.”

Carmen Chieregato, who will continue to work as Managing Director of Cogest Retail in the newly-expanded business, reflects on the joining of forces: “We are very excited about this next phase of our development. This acquisition gives us the opportunity to combine our already successful business model with Cushman & Wakefield’s experience and resources. It also acknowledges our achievements to date thanks to our committed team and the trust of our clients.”


Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.