Executive Spotlight: John Santora, Cushman & Wakefield

From an engineer’s helper to president of the tri-state region, John Santora has been with C&W for more than 40 years. Along the way, he took on several leadership positions and overcame challenges brought on by the company’s expansion.
John Santora, president of the Tri-State Region, Cushman & Wakefield
John Santora, president of the Tri-State Region, Cushman & Wakefield

During its century-long history, Cushman & Wakefield has grown into a global company with the help of dedicated talent. Top real estate executive John Santora, now president of the Tri-State Region, has been with the firm for more than four decades and has been vital tothe firm’s expansion, overseeing major mergers and large advisory projects, including privatizing management and operations of the original World Trade Center in New York City. 

His career at Cushman & Wakefield started with a summer job as he was training to become a New York City firefighter. Santora told Commercial Property Executive how things took off from there and what he’s taken away from his 40-year career.

You started out at Cushman & Wakefield as an engineer’s helper. What can you tell us about the start of your career? What were your goals at the time?

Santora: When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a firefighter for the New York City Fire Department, and I enrolled in New York Community College’s program for fire science to pursue that goal. One summer while I was in school, I took a job as an engineer’s helper for Cushman & Wakefield’s 100 Park Ave., and my whole career path changed. I had an interesting introduction into the commercial real estate industry. It sounds like a cliché, but I really fell into it.

How would you describe your growth within the company?

Santora: Within 16 years at Cushman & Wakefield, I went from the engine room to the board room. Since then, I have taken on many executive leadership roles at the firm on a regional, national and global level. Currently, I am president of the Tri-State Region, but before my role here, I served as the global chief operating officer and chief integration officer for the firm, responsible for bringing together 45,000 employees in more than 70 countries. Previously, I served as president & CEO of Global Corporate Occupier and Investment Services and before that, as president & CEO for the Americas. 

What challenges did you overcome during your lengthy career? 

Santora: When I returned to the position of global COO in 2015, Cushman & Wakefield merged with DTZ, only a year after acquiring Massey Knakal. I was tasked with the integration of a global company, challenging me to not only learn about the other firms’ culture and landscape, but to globally merge them under one umbrella, Cushman & Wakefield. This was definitely a challenge professionally, as I was traveling all over the world, learning different business cultures and working to unify multiple companies into one.

Is there a particular project that you are most proud of?

Santora: In 2001, I was involved in advising the Port Authority on privatizing management and operations of the original World Trade Center. This was a huge undertaking that involved a number of different service lines and required the absolute best of Cushman & Wakefield’s talent to step forward. Unfortunately, it was only two months before the attacks of 9/11, but we are still proud of the hard work and effort put in this project.

Tell us about one of your most treasured memories regarding your professional activity.

Santora: I think my most treasured memories come from the amazing talent I’ve worked with and the incredible relationships I’ve built with people here at the firm. I cannot point to one specific memory and say it is my favorite, but over the last 40 years, I have been able to work with incredible individuals and that is something I will always treasure.

Image courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield