O’Connor Capital Welcomes Co-Founder Rufrano Back as CEO

Glenn Rufrano, former CEO of Cushman & Wakefield, has returned to real estate investment and management firm O'Connor Capital Partners as chairman & CEO, 13 years after leaving his role as president & COO of the company.
President and CEO of Cushman & Wakefield Glen Rufrano

Glen Rufrano

As it turns out, you can go home again. Glenn Rufrano, former CEO of Cushman & Wakefield, has returned to real estate investment and management firm O’Connor Capital Partners as chairman & CEO, 13 years after leaving his role as president and chief operating officer of the company. It’s a home that Rufrano helped build; he co-founded O’Connor in its original incarnation as The O’Connor Group in 1983.

Rufrano takes on the mantle last officially held by co-founder Jerry O’Connor who passed away in 2010. Bill O’Connor had been steering the ship since then, doing triple duty in his capacity as president & COO. O’Connor was ready for a CEO.

The years have been kind to Rufrano. “We don’t talk about age around here. We become more educated over time, so in the last 13 years, I’ve become more educated,” Rufrano told Commercial Property Executive.

Since leaving O’Connor in 2000, he’s worked in different parts of the U.S., and different parts of the world, building up his chief executive chops. He served as CEO of retail real estate company New Plan Excel Realty Trust Inc. until 2007, when he became CEO of Australian-based shopping center REIT Centro Properties Group (now Federation Centres), a role he held for three years before he took on the position of CEO of Cushman & Wakefield in 2010.

And now he’s back (although, he did get to enjoy a homecoming of sorts in 2010 when he became a member of O’Connor’s board in 2010). “What was important for me in terms of my next position was to find a company that I could be productive in and that I like the people I was working with,” Rufrano said. There was one more criterion. “I also wanted a place that was within 20 minutes of where I live in the City,” he joked. He has succeeded on that front, too.

Rufrano has hit the ground running, starting with the basics. “The first thing a CEO should do is come in and prepare with the seniors a plan for the future, so that we’re all on the same wavelength and moving in the same direction and we’re in the process of doing that,” he added. Rufrano is running O’Connor with six senior executives and together, they’re hammering out goals and objectives in a one-year and a five-year plan for the company.

Rufrano’s return comes as O’Connor moves into a growth mode, focusing additional efforts on retail and residential. Over the last three years, the company has taken its retail efforts down two paths, one of which is the pursuit of larger retail investments via partnering with major mall owners. The company’s $1.3 billion joint venture investment with Westfield in a 6 million-square-foot, six-property regional mall portfolio in Florida is a case in point. O’Connor has also focused on investing in open-air retail, community and neighborhood shopping centers, taking a greater role in operating those assets. “Those two forms of retail and the investment in the two are very logical for this company and I would expect to continue,” Rufrano added.

In the residential arena, O’Connor plans to strengthen its presence. The company has been active in urban multi-family in the U.S. and in mid- to high-income housing in metropolitan Mexico City. O’Connor has also had involvement in the European middle-income housing market through the Peabody Funds. “[Residential] is an asset talent that we want to use going forward.”

And there’s something else that is high on O’Connor’s expansion plans, in terms of location: Mexico City. The company has had a significant footprint in the area since the ’90s.

But as Rufrano sees it, for O’Connor, it’s not about growth just for the sake of growing; how big the company wants to be is not the issue. “That doesn’t matter to me–what we need to be is profitable,” Rufrano concluded. “So that will be an important goal, that we are good fiduciaries and investors with our capital partners and that we’re profitable. I’m coming back to a business that I know and understand and I know the people and respect them greatly, so it’s an ideal situation for me to now be able to put my nose to the grindstone and help make the company more profitable.”