Bob Knakal Launches Investment Sales Firm With Artificial Intelligence Focus


Bob Knakal, the high-profile New York City broker who left JLL in February, has launched an investment sales firm of his own with plans to try to leverage artificial intelligence to help sell more properties in the country’s largest commercial real estate market.

Knakal, who fortified his reputation as one of the industry’s busiest social media influencers, took to LinkedIn Tuesday to say he had started BK Real Estate Advisors, a boutique brokerage “with a vision to redefine the capital markets landscape through investment sales, debt and equity.”

He confirmed the launch of his new firm in a text message to CoStar News: “This is the best thing that possibly could’ve happened to me! I could not be more excited and it is so great to feel like an entrepreneurial kid again!” On LinkedIn, he posted that “at BKREA, we’re embracing this future by integrating AI technologies to interpret data in new ways and streamline our transaction processes, all while holding onto our valued analog methods.”

Knakal, the executive who started selling investment properties in New York City 40 years ago, left JLL in mid-February, days after The New York Times profiled him and his war room in an undisclosed location in Manhattan. He had worked at JLL for roughly six years and led its private capital group in the market.

Knakal has been responsible for deals in 2,252 buildings and over $21 billion in sales, “generally considered to be the highest total ever for a single broker in New York,” according to his LinkedIn profile summary.

In his LinkedIn post Tuesday, Knakal said he had considered several options for his next career move but ultimately decided to strike out on his own.

“In the past few weeks, I’ve met with numerous individuals and companies, each with fantastic platforms and innovative ideas,” Knakal said. “Yet, it became clear that forging our path, creating a company for a new age, was the direction to follow. Reflecting on how the world has transformed since I began my journey in 1984, without a computer, fax machine, or cell phone, I’m convinced that the next five years will bring about even more dramatic changes, especially with advancements in AI.”

Knakal said one of his first moves was to hire Seth Samowitz as BK’s chief operating officer. Samowitz is a former technology executive who worked in business development at Uber for Uber Eats and financial technology firm Square. “With a tremendous background in AI, Seth is the perfect leader to guide us in this new direction,” Knakal said.

Knakal’s first job in the industry was in 1984 at CBRE, then called CB Richard Ellis. It was there where he met Paul J. Massey Jr. Four years later, Massey and Knakal left CBRE and formed Massey Knakal Realty Services, where Knakal made his mark as chairman and founding partner.

In February, broker coach Rod Santomassimo, whose clients include his good friend Knakal, said Knakal quickly embraced AI as a way to streamline the brokerage process.

“Every Saturday morning Bob and I sit down … for an hour and just talk about the week and talk about the strategy,” Santomassimo said then. “We’re building something out and we’re always thinking about what’s next. I’m 60. He’s 61, which is kind of crazy. Here’s two old men doing AI.”

Being coached, even after four decades of completing thousands of deals, helps him stay on top of the latest trends and technology in the brokerage world, Knakal said.

“Working with a coach provides another layer of discipline to our practice and exposes us to best practices being implemented across North America,” Knakal said in an email. “If a kid in Kansas City or Montreal comes up with a better way to do something, I want to know about it ASAP. Working with Rod allows me to be in that position.”

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