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Bob Knakal Had COVID-19 And Took Hydroxychloroquine To Treat Symptoms

JLL's Bob Knakal, speaking at a Bisnow event in 2016.

JLL's head of New York investment sales, Bob Knakal, fell ill with COVID-19 five weeks ago and used hydroxychloroquine to treat his symptoms, he said on a Bisnow webinar Tuesday.

“I had corona for 17 days, but fortunately it didn’t get into the lungs and after 12 days, the fever broke and I took some hydroxychloroquine,” Knakal said from his suburban home. “I don’t know if it was the medicine or just the fact that it took its course, but out five weeks and 100%. Feeling great, feeling lucky and going for the antibody test tomorrow.” 

Tuesday was the first time Knakal spoke about his experience with the virus and his use of the controversial treatment typically used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Hydroxychloroquine was touted as a potential cure by President Donald Trump and others during the weeks the virus began to spread rapidly around the country. 

Many members of the medical community remain skeptical about using the drug to treat patients with COVID-19 — the Food and Drug Administration cautioned against its use for the disease in an April 30 memo. Trump has since softened his endorsement of the drug. 

Knakal was joined on the webinar by his longtime friend, colleague and former business partner, B6 Real Estate Advisors CEO Paul Massey, who ran for mayor in 2016. The pair spoke about the state of the market and offered advice for brokers. 

They reminisced about moments in their careers, including how they were able to prevail through times of economic decline and uncertainty such as the savings and loans crisis of 1989-1990 early in their careers and during the Great Recession in 2008. 

The success of their partnership came down to one thing, Knakal said: a shared passion for the work they were doing. 

“Not only did we have a lot of skills that were complementary … but I think the No. 1 thing was our work ethic was almost identical,” he said. “Over the 30 years we were partners, if you added up all the hours that we each individually worked … I bet you there was a 10-hour difference between the total hours each of us worked.”

Clockwise from top left: Bisnow Director for the Northeast Chris Bushnell, B6 Real Estate Advisor CEO Paul Massey and JLL's Head of New York Investment Bob Kna

While they have plenty of lessons to apply to today’s market, with the real estate market in flux, not even sales veterans know what value is, Knakal said. It is important for brokers to tell their clients what they know when they know it, even if that sometimes means that they don’t yet know, he said. 

“The analogy I’ve used with clients is: The house is on fire, smoke is blowing right in your eyes and you hear stuff going on, you hear crackling and popping,” he said. “But you need time to let the smoke clear and then determine whether the side of the building has a little damage, the top floor is gone or the whole building burned down.” 

Knakal said he thinks most investments are still structurally, or fundamentally sound, but no one will really know until the state starts opening up again. His clients are curious about what rent collections look like, how to prepare and what changes are in store for office and apartment buildings moving forward, Knakal said. 

With the answers to many forward looking questions still unknown, Massey said he put his team on a “media diet,” in order to keep their clients up to date, he said.  Communication is key, both with colleagues and with clients during this time he said. 

“If you maintain this pattern of what I would call heavy communication, people are going to be really grateful,” Massey said. 

If brokers maintain this communication and continue making calls to their clients, the result of the crisis could be beneficial to dealmaking in the long-run, Knakal said. 

“Prepare yourself for what’s on the other side of this,” he said. “Whether it’s [like] the S&L crisis, the dot-com bubble bursting and 9/11 or the Great Recession, we’ve come out of it with 20% to 30% fewer brokers than we went into the downturn with, so there’ll be less competition and more opportunity. It’s actually an exciting time in a way to see how things are going to unfold.” 

UPDATE, MAY 13, 2:30 P.M. ET: This story has been updated to include more comments from Knakal and Massey’s webinar.