The commercial real estate industry in New York is a ruthless business. And in this business, only a few are as popular as Robert K. Futterman. The mastermind realtor who made a name for himself without having a background in real estate, Futterman’s career is full of high-profile deals, from Apple’s iconic glass flagship store to revitalizing the Grand Central Terminal. Futterman has done it all and continues to achieve milestones as the President of Futterman Realty.
A career in real estate was not initially in the cards for Futterman, but when he did enter the market, he made sure to pour his heart and soul into it. Futterman was born to Louis and Rosalie Futterman. His father was a businessman and manufacturer, and his mother was a painter. Raised on Long Island, New York, after high school Futterman went to the University of Maryland.
Futterman has learned many skills over his 38-year-long career, but one thing has stayed with him, his insatiable appetite for creating opportunities. “Always look for new ideas, new opportunities, new business, and do it now. Don’t wait for tomorrow,” he said.
His attitude towards daily life has made a considerable difference. It has also entirely offset the fact that he dropped out of college. “It hasn’t impacted my career. I was able to learn enough in college and enough in life to deal with anybody. I can deal with friends of mine who are Harvard MBAs; I can deal with the guy that owns the chain of local businesses,” he told Real Deal, a news outlet for New York real estate news. Whatever he skipped in class, Futterman has made up for it in real life.
Futterman rose quickly through the ranks at Garrick-Aug and resigned as the head of the firm’s New York City operations. His employers recollect how no one was able to emulate Futterman’s success. Pursuing a bigger challenge, Futterman started working on his own.
During this time, the sky became the limit for him as he brokered some of the most important deals in the city. As the head of Rockefeller Center’s leasing team, he got on board Anthropologie, a popular retail store, and the Nautica flagship. His success with Rockefeller Center attracted more business. He played a crucial role in Columbus Circle’s revitalization by securing a lease for 347,000 square feet of commercial property. The tenants included Williams-Sonoma, Hugo Boss, Armani, and Sephora.
Futterman was also sought by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as an advisor for the revitalization of the Grand Central Terminal. The popular opinion at the time was that the GCT could not be rebranded. However, Futterman saw the unused potential in GCT and leased out the entire retail space, with more tenants waiting in line.
Futterman is also credited with bringing life back to entire retail markets. This includes Union Square South, Times Square, Herald Square, Columbus Circle, SoHo, and the Meatpacking District.
“I was goal-driven, a perfectionist. I never forget that I once sold ice cream on Zuma Beach,” Futterman said while talking to the New York Sun. His humble beginnings have ensured that he stays grounded. It has also inculcated a strong sense of drive and resilience. His message to every budding realtor is the same, you are only as good as your last deal. One strike and you’re out.
Another distinguishing factor of his approach is the emphasis on personal relationships. He does not view his clients as a one-time money-making opportunity. Those who know him, know that he is in his element when brokering deals with an arm around his client. This relaxed approach has ensured that the relationships he forms are genuine and extend beyond work. He has successfully represented landlords and tenants and befriended both. After being in the business for so long, brokering deals now is essentially a matter of putting one of his friends in touch with another.
His successes have not stopped him from wanting more. Even though Futterman is the President of his own firm, he still cold calls landlords and walks through the streets of New York looking for opportunities, just as he did 38 years ago. He knows that there is always more that he can achieve and even more to learn. Though the landscape of New York’s commercial real estate may be rapidly changing, there is a lot that young realtors can learn from Futterman. His experience in the industry has endowed him with the ability to predict trends and adapt accordingly. It is exciting to see what Futterman will do next.