Agnelli family, Fiat founders, adds $2bn to fortune selling property agent Cushman & Wakefield

Cushman’s buyer is rival agent DTZ

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Italy’s billionaire Agnelli family – the founders of the Fiat car maker – added to their vast €12bn (£9bn) fortune yesterday as they agreed to sell the property agent Cushman & Wakefield for $2bn.

As well as Fiat, which took control of struggling US rival Chrysler last year, the Agnellis’ empire spans Italian football club Juventus as well as CNH Industrial, which makes construction machinery and commercial vehicles. Exor, the Agnellis’ investment vehicle, is also a major investor in Almacantar, the London property developer and owner of buildings including Oxford Street’s landmark Centre Point. John Elkann, the grandson of Gianni Agnelli, has headed both Fiat Chrysler and Exor since 2003.

Exor bought an 80 per cent stake in the agent in 2007, but hired Goldman Sachs to put the Cushman business up for sale at the beginning of the year under plans to rebalance the family’s portfolio of interests. Exor has a $722m gain on its original investment in the agent, funds which are likely to be recycled into Exor’s $6.4bn hostile bid for the US reinsurer PartnerRe.

Cushman’s buyer is rival agent DTZ, which was itself snapped up last year by a consortium led by the private-equity giants TPG. The deal creates a third “super agent”, alongside CBRE and JLL, with 43,000 staff and more than 500 offices around the world.

DTZ is understood to have fought off a clutch of rival bids for Cushman including one from Fosun International, the Shanghai-based investment firm which took a stake in UK holiday giant Thomas Cook earlier this year.

Cushman and DTZ have advised on a host of major investment and leasing deals, boasting a roster of big-name clients including RBS, Amazon, French bank Société Générale and shopping mall giant Westfield. DTZ is also selling Tesco’s Cheshunt headquarters, following the supermarket’s decision to cull head-office staff. The combined entity will have revenues of more than $5bn, still some way behind industry leader CBRE, but breathing down the necks of second-placed JLL. Mr Elkann said the deal creates a “combined group of formidable reach and capability”. “It gives us great satisfaction to see a business we have owned for many years become part of a new powerhouse in the sector as it approaches its centennial year,” he added.

Cushman has about 550 staff in London, where it has been building on its traditional strengths in retail by poaching a succession of big-name property agents, most recently JLL’s James Beckham, to build a City investment and leasing team. DTZ, which has 1,200 staff across the UK, also has a strong London office leasing business, although industry sources suggested that the overlapping offices of the two companies were likely to result in job cuts. Both firms declined to comment. 

The DTZ name will disappear under the deal. DTZ traces its history back more than 230 years, although the current incarnation emerged in 1993 when Debenham, Tewson & Chinnocks merged with France’s Thouard and Germany’s Zadelhoff to create DTZ, which was almost sunk by the financial crisis in 2008. Cushman & Wakefield was set up in New York in 1917.