Real Estate

Veteran Bob Knakal Forms AI-Focused Firm

Bob Knakal, Chairman & CEO, BK Real Estate Advisors. Image courtesy of BK Real Estate Advisors

Veteran New York City broker Bob Knakal is embracing both his entrepreneurial spirit and the growing importance of artificial intelligence in commercial real estate with the launch of a new boutique brokerage firm, BK Real Estate Advisors.

The formation of the new company comes less than two months after Knakal was let go as a senior managing director from JLL following a New York Times profile that reportedly ruffled feathers because it focused mainly on the broker’s 40-year professional history and not enough on the firm.

Knakal had led the JLL New York Private Capital Group since 2018. He had previously served as chairman of New York investment sales at Cushman & Wakefield, but his contract was terminated shortly before its due date.

He had joined Cushman & Wakefield in 2014, following the firm’s acquisition of Massey Knakal Realty Services. Knakal and Paul Massey had founded the New York City boutique brokerage, known for midsize office, retail and apartment building sales, in 1988.


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Knakal, who started his commercial real estate career at CB Richard Ellis in 1984, has arranged more than $21 billion in sales, closed more than 6,000 transactions and brokered the sale of more than 2,300 properties in New York City.

Making the announcement about BKREA from his famous Manhattan “map room” on social media Tuesday morning, Knakal said he had many meetings and offers to collaborate in the weeks after leaving JLL. He thanked those who had reached out to him but said his entrepreneurial spirit had been reawakened and felt it was time to “create a new company for a new age.”

Combining AI and analog

BKREA will focus on the capital markets landscape through investment sales, debt and equity while integrating AI technologies to interpret data in many new ways and streamline the transaction processes. Pointing to the walls and table covered with maps detailing every block in Manhattan and properties for sale, Knakal said the firm will continue to use its “valued analog methods” like those on display in the room for mapping and data collection.

“Reflecting on how the world had 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 in the video.

Knakal is the new firm’s chairman & CEO. Seth Samowitz has been tapped as BKREA’s Chief Operating Officer, who will focus on the operational and technology aspects of the business and land sales in New York City. A former technology executive, Samowitz has been working in real estate and artificial intelligence for more than five years as a licensed broker & founder of Vosa AI, a startup aimed at automating real estate prospecting.

BKREA has also formed the Knakal Affiliate Program, or KAP, a group that will facilitate referrals and collaborations between brokers and firms.

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