Real Estate Industry Loses Veteran Joe Stettinius

The 30-year industry veteran, who was instrumental in two of the industry's biggest mergers, is remembered for his integrity and kindness as well as his visionary leadership.

Joe Stettinius
Joe Stettinius

Long-time commercial real estate leader Joe Stettinius, a key figure in two of the industry’s most significant mergers, died Thursday evening of a heart attack at his home in Upperville, Va. He was 55 years old.

A 30-year industry veteran, Stettinius most recently served as Cushman & Wakefield’s executive vice chairman of strategic investments for the Americas. He is remembered as a “dear friend, trusted colleague and a kind and visionary leader,” according to a company statement. 

Longtime colleagues likewise recalled Stettinius’ integrity and leadership. “Joe was honest and honorable,” Rand Construction Corp. Chairman & CEO Linda Rabbitt told CPE on Friday afternoon. “He was an inspirational and aspirational leader, and knew how to be a true friend.” 

The son of the senior Joe Stettinius, a real estate developer who passed away in January 2016, Stettinius began his career in the mid-1980s as a leasing agent in Washington, D.C., representing owners of trophy properties such as the Evening Star Building, Farragut Center and 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. He then held positions at Equity Office Properties Trust and Jones Lang Wootton before starting a 12-year run at Trammell Crow in 1994. 

That stint proved to be a turning point. In 2001, Stettinius was promoted to national project leasing practice leader and tasked with revitalizing the company’s service business in the Mid-Atlantic.

In a February 2015 profile for CPE, Stettinius remembered the position as “a seminal event in terms of becoming a leader,” adding that “if you can find things that need to be done, you need to seize them.”

Roberta Liss, Cushman & Wakefield’s regional managing principal for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, met Joe when he recruited her to join Trammell Crow, and noted his commitment to helping others realize their full potential.

“The uniqueness of Joe was that he was completely committed to lifting everyone around him to make sure they were the best version of themselves,” Liss said Friday afternoon. “Joe was honored to help people get there, grow in that direction and support them.”

From Regional to National Player

Stettinius briefly joined CBRE as part of its acquisition of Trammell Crow in 2006 before taking on the CEO role at Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers. There, he set out to expand the local brokerage firm’s reach, helping to transform a group of four affiliated regional firms into a diversified national service provider. Along with Mark Burkhart, his predecessor as CEO, Stettinius launched Cassidy Turley in 2010.

“He laid out his vision for what was then a local brokerage firm. He wanted to think bigger than that and make a national platform,” noted Rand Construction’s Rabbitt, an acquaintance since Stettinius’ time at Trammell Crow, in the 2015 profile.  

Stettinius served as Cassidy Turley’s first vice president from 2010 to 2013, acquiring strong regional players before he and other company executives decided that the best strategy would be to sell Cassidy Turley to a firm with a complementary platform and global presence: DTZ. Stettinius oversaw DTZ’s acquisition of Cassidy Turley in January 2015, creating a top-three global services firm with $2.9 billion in annual revenues. This achievement, and the high regard of his peers, won Stettinius the top honor in CPE’s 2015 Executive of the Year awards program. “What he’s accomplished is nothing short of amazing,” Rabbitt noted at the time. 

Just a few months after taking on his new role as chief executive of DTZ’s Americas region, Stettinius jumped into yet another epic deal—the firm’s merger with Cushman & Wakefield. That combination created the second-largest commercial real estate services firm with $5 billion in total revenue and more than 4.3 billion square feet under management. Stettinius was named chief executive of the Americas following the merger, before being promoted to the newly created position of chief executive of brokerage and capital markets for the Americas in November 2016. He held that position for about a year before receiving another promotion, to executive vice chairman of strategic investments for the Americas, in November 2017.

“Joe was a visionary leader. He was a pillar of our real estate community—certainly in D.C., but quite frankly in the country,” Liss reflected. “This world will miss Joe. He made it a great place.”

Photo by Gary Spector Photography