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Former New York Giant Howard Cross Leaves Cresa For JRT, Citing Diversity

Howard Cross, former New York Giants tight end, now an executive managing director with JRT Realty Group

Howard Cross spent the last five years of his career as a principal at Cresa, but he left the global tenant representation firm last month to join JRT Realty Group, a woman-owned commercial real estate services firm. He said encouraging diversity in the still-white-male-dominated industry was a big reason for his move.

Cross, 49, played tight end for the New York Giants in the 1990s, where he won a Super Bowl championship and caught 201 passes for more than 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. Since he retired in 2001 — he played in all 16 games in each of his 12 seasons — he has climbed the ranks of New York City office leasing brokerages, with stints at Colliers International and Cresa. 

He and JRT founder and CEO Jodi Pulice have known each other for about a decade, and Pulice has given Cross the hard pitch to join her team for years, he said. When he was looking for another change — "every four or five years I bounce around," he said — he gave her a call. He is now JRT's executive managing director.

Cross started in commercial real estate after meeting higher-ups in the industry through philanthropy and meeting with the boards of directors of nonprofits he was involved in while he was still in the NFL, he said. 

"You keep getting asked by these board members what your plan is when you retire," he said. "How can I tie my contacts from the old days to something lucrative? The one thing that ties it together is real estate."

He joined Colliers as a senior managing director in 2008, and has represented Fortune 200 firms in real estate decisions at his previous stops. His name recognition and pedigree could open doors for the nation’s largest certified minority- and women-owned business enterprise commercial real estate firm. It helps that JRT has an affiliation with Cushman & Wakefield, too, he said.

"When you’re talking about minority firms and women-owned firms, when corporations are looking at a company like JRT, we want to be invited to the table," he said. "Bring us in and let us pitch. We’ll do a great job, and not just in the short run."

Pulice founded the firm in 1996, and said she is looking forward to working with Cross. He is one of many former pro athletes who have found a second career in CRE, like fellow NFL greats Roger Staubach and Emmitt Smith, and Pulice said their lifetime of teamwork makes them terrific colleagues. 

Like her new employee, she is adamant about pushing major corporations that employ real estate brokers to put their money with their mouths are when it comes to promoting diversity.

"I’m tormented by the fact that we don’t have more women and minorities in the business," Pulice said. "It’s absolutely ridiculous that we’re talking about [it] in 2017. I can’t do it alone. If the Fortune 500 companies step up, we can do it."