Commercial Observer | October 23, 2018
By Rey Mashayekhi
Sitting in his corner office at GFI Capital Resources Group’s headquarters on the 41st floor at 140 Broadway—from which one has an enviable view of the surrounding Lower Manhattan skyline—Michael Weiser looked back on how he got his start in the commercial real estate business in the late 1990s, when he was arranging loans for hospitality clients in areas of the country he’d never even been to.
“We were doing FFE [furniture, fixtures and equipment] loans for limited-service hotels,” Weiser recalled. “This was pre-internet; we were in that era where everything wasn’t accessible to everybody. I’m dealing with a guy in middle America, and I’m this guy in New York. That meant something—there was this instant credibility.”
At the time, Weiser was only a few years out of Brooklyn College, where he had graduated with a degree in accounting—“the best background to have for anything related to the business world,” he noted. Having recently been granted the opportunity by his father-in-law, GFI Founder, Chairman and CEO Allen Gross, to help launch a new equipment leasing division at GFI Capital, he developed contacts that gave him inroads into the hospitality sector. Before long, he found himself calling hotel proprietors across the U.S. and helping them finance upgrades to their properties (think replacing room keys with electronic keycards).
“As I did more of these deals and got to know more of the guys, I’d ask them, ‘Where are you getting your mortgages from?’ It would be the local bank at the corner, full recourse,” Weiser said. “It was like, ‘Well, I can give you a lot more money than your bank is giving you, and non-recourse.’ After a while, it was like, why bother with these $200,000 to $300,000 FFE loans? You can do a $4 million loan and that’s a $40,000 commission right there.”
From that point, it was, “Bye-bye, equipment financing,” as Weiser put it. By the early 2000s, he found himself as one of the “co-captains” of GFI Realty Services, the commercial real estate brokerage division of Gross’ multi-faceted real estate investment firm. While then-GFI broker Aaron Jungreis (who would go on to form his own firm, Rosewood Realty Group, in 2007) was the main attraction as far as the company’s investment sales platform was concerned, Weiser led the brokerage’s debt and capital markets operations.
Today, Weiser, 43, not only serves as the president of GFI Realty Services—whose 25-person team is now predominantly focused on investment sales in the New York City multifamily market—but also plays a major role in overseeing GFI Capital’s own national real estate investment portfolio as the firm’s managing director of acquisitions and dispositions.
That means that in addition to running a brokerage that handled nearly $648 million worth of property transactions in 2017, Weiser has helped assemble a collection of multifamily and hotel assets scattered across the country—from New York to Kansas City, Mo., and from the suburbs of Dallas to Savannah, Ga. Through its various affiliates, the company today owns and manages approximately 16,000 apartment units and 1,600 hotel keys located throughout the country..