Contact Us

New CEO Named At Cushman & Wakefield, Forrester to Retire

There is a change in the top spot at Cushman & Wakefield for the second time in 18 months.

Michelle MacKay will take over as Cushman & Wakefield's next CEO, effective July 1, 2023.

John Forrester is retiring from his position as Cushman & Wakefield CEO at the end of June, and current President and Chief Operating Officer Michelle MacKay will be stepping into the chief executive role July 1, the company announced Thursday.

Forrester has been at the company for 35 years and was named CEO in January 2022, taking over from current Executive Chairman Brett White. Forrester will stay on as a strategic adviser until the end of the year.

On the company's earnings call Thursday evening shortly after the announcement, Forrester said he made the decision to retire over the past few months as the company's executives were mapping out its strategy for the future, and he decided the person making those decisions should be the person executing them in the future.

"I could not be leaving the company in better hands than Michelle MacKay as CEO," he said on the call. "Leaders who take big decisions need to be around to see those decisions out and be accountable for them."

MacKay, who has more than 30 years of experience in public and private firms, has been at Cushman & Wakefield since 2018, when she joined the company's board of directors following its initial public offering. She was named president and chief operating officer in 2020, stepping down from the board at the time, but she will rejoin the board when she takes over as CEO.

"I don’t require time to integrate into Cushman & Wakefield," MacKay said on the call. "The foundation is strong and will allow me the ability to reassess and reconfirm what is the core business."

The personnel change is the culmination of a long-planned transition for the company, but the timing of the move wasn't decided until more recently.

"We realized that we probably need to pull succession forward a little faster than initially anticipated," MacKay said on the call. She added that the company had largely completed its post-pandemic restructuring. "We’re going to be focused on mapping out the next 10 years of the company."

Andrew McDonald, currently president at the firm, will step into a global president role and will fill MacKay’s shoes as chief operating officer.

“Michelle has an impressive track record of creating substantial value for shareholders and clients through her deep expertise in commercial real estate and corporate strategy,” White said in a statement. “In their new roles, the combination of Michelle and Andrew — who also has played a pivotal role in the firm’s profitability, growth and development of new strategic opportunities — creates a formidable leadership team that is uniquely qualified to steer evolution within the commercial real estate services industry.”

The brokerage also reported its first-quarter earnings Thursday afternoon, posting a $76.4M net loss on the quarter after turning a $45.5M profit in Q1 2022. Its overall revenue dropped 4%, driven by a 32% drop in brokerage revenue, reflecting the overall slowdown in commercial real estate activity.

Its leasing revenue dropped 20% year-over-year, while its capital markets revenue dropped by 51%.

Also in its first-quarter earnings release, the company said it generated $21M in gross cost savings as part of its previously announced plan to cut $90M in costs. It spent $15M on those initiatives in Q1 on severance and other employment-related costs "to reduce headcount across select roles to help optimize our workforce given the current macroeconomic conditions and operating environment," it said in its filing.