Compass adds to NYC commercial division with Brett Weinblatt hire

Brett Weinblatt

New addition to office leasing, retail leasing and investment sales verticals

By Adam Pincus

The residential-focused brokerage firm Compass dipped its toe a bit further into New York City’s commercial real estate world by hiring Solil Management’s former lead agent, Brett Weinblatt.

Weinblatt, 37, has been the affable face and lead dealmaker over the past 10 years for Solil, the 300-property behemoth that is one of the most valuable and widely dispersed owners in New York City.

Weinblatt started at Compass on Friday and will build up and lead a team focused on landlord and tenant representation for retail and industrial leasing citywide, a person familiar with the hire said. Weinblatt declined to comment for this article. Compass did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

With Weinblatt, Compass has rounded out the contours in New York for a full-service commercial firm. The move comes a month after Compass hired veteran office leasing agent James Emden from Colliers International to lead the office leasing division. He, too, will build out his own team.

In August, the firm hired investment sales broker Adelaide Polsinelli and retail broker Robin Abrams, among others, from the now-shuttered Eastern Consolidated, as well as Albert Dayan, a retail agent formerly with Thor Equities.

The city’s property industry is in flux with some sectors strengthening while others struggle, a situation that often leads to brokers moving firms. Retail agents are battling each other for business even as volume has been weak and tenants want to strike low-commission, short-term leases. Residential deal volume is low. At the same time, office leasing and investment sales transactions were up last year.

Weinblatt led leasing at Solil, also known as Sol Goldman Investments, where he started in 2009. The firm manages the holdings assembled by the legendary commercial owner Sol Goldman. Goldman, who died in 1987, put together one of most valuable real estate portfolios in the city, pegged by The Real Deal last year as having an NOI of $340 million.

Some of Weinblatt’s major deals include UPS’s 475,000-square-foot industrial lease in Maspeth in 2017; a large 12,000-square-foot Chik-fil-a lease at 711 Lexington Avenue last year; and in 2015 a 4,000-square-foot lease with fashion designer Elie Saab, signed at 860 Madison Avenue.

The Manhattan-based Compass, launched in 2012, is one of the fastest growing residential brokerage firms in the country, but its origin was herky-jerky, with a change in business format within the first months. Then in 2014 it stunned the residential market with the hiring of Leonard Steinberg, the star Douglas Elliman broker.

The question is will Compass make a hire of that magnitude in commercial real estate. Such a move typically comes with a large signing bonus. Compass may have a lot of cash to throw around — it raised $400 million last year from investors including SoftBank and Qatar Investment Authority, bringing its valuation to $4.4 billion.

Compass announced last summer that it had formed Compass Commercial. Today, the firm has commercial agents nationally, including from the acquisition of Paragon Real Estate Group in California in July.

Compass’s Emden said the technological platform the firm has developed enticed him to join.

“They were very smart the way they built the residential part of the firm. The goal will be to build the commercial side in a similar way, however long it takes. Rome was not built in a day,” Emden said.

Suzy Reingold, a consultant and former COO of Cushman & Wakefield’s tri-state region, said to enter a market a firm should have a distinct brand identification, and she said Compass appears to have that with their emphasis on a high-tech platform. That could be used to attract startups as clients.

“I think there is a synergy,” she said. “You’ve got to differentiate yourself if you are the new kid.” She was not involved in the new hire.

One executive who has led large brokerage firms and helped build up the commercial firm Lee & Associates NYC in New York when the brand was little-known, said it’s easier for a new entry to do organic hiring when the market is softer.

“I don’t know that this is the best time to do that. I think the market would have to probably be weaker than it is,” said Joel Herskowitz, COO of Lee & Associates NYC. He was commenting generally, and was not familiar with Compass’s strategy in New York.