Amira Yunis, the smalltown model-turned broker who conquered
the New York City retail market, has died at the age of 51 following a battle
An executive vice president in the Retail Services Group at CBRE, Yunis was one of the top performing brokers in the city, specializing in national rollouts for new and international retailers, and a recipient of the Real Estate Board of New York’s York’s Ingenious Deal of the Year Award for representing New York University in bringing Trader Joe’s to its first Manhattan location at 14th Street in 2006.
Born in Richfield, Minn. to a Chilean mother and Lebanese
father, Yunis was one of five children whose Middle Eastern and Latino features
drew unwanted attention that she ultimately turned to her advantage, landing a
modelling contract with Ford that took her around the world before she settled
in New York City in 1996 as a young single mom with big ambitions.
She took a job as a waitress before landing a gig with a
property management firm that opened her eyes to a world that she was
determined to be part of and, before long, she was renting out apartments and
office space around the city.
In 2000, the ambitious young broker caught the eye of Newmark, and she joined the firm’s powerhouse retail team. Over the next several years, she pushed her way to the top of the brokerage heap with deals that turned heads in the male dominated sector.
She put the power lunch hot spot Capital Grille in the Chrysler Building (above) and built a years-long relationship with beauty chain Sephora that started with a lease in the Scribner Building at 597 Fifth Avenue that Yunis maintained was “the most beautiful store in New York.”
By 2006, she was bringing Newmark $10 million a year in
business and was hailed as Ingenious by REBNY for her Trader Joe’s deal. Yunis
capped her time with the firm by becoming the first female principal in its New
York office before joining CBRE in 2011 where the landmark deals continued to
She continued to fill her resume with all the big names,
from H&M to Breitling, Lacoste to Patagonia and her success as a tenant rep
soon had the city’s biggest landlords seeking her expertise on filling empty
space across New York.
In 2013, however, Yunis was confronted with the biggest challenge
of her life when she was diagnosed with sarcoma in the femoral neck. With the
support of her husband Dudley Hancox, their three stepchildren and her son
Anthony, Yunis battled the rare cancer with the help of doctors at Memorial
Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and was cancer free for five years before
the disease struck again in 2018. She underwent surgery at Houston Methodist and
was treated with chemotherapy at MMKCC that targeted the sarcoma now in her
She was then further diagnosed with a glioma in the brain in
November 2020. In a statement, the Sarcoma Foundation of America (SFA) said she
succumbed to the disease in early September 2021.
“Her family is forever grateful to all [those] physicians,
nursing staff and therapists who were able to keep Amira in full battle mode as
long as she was able,” said SFA, whose work Yunis championed as a board member
and fundraiser. “Amira’s work with the Sarcoma Foundation of America and to
better the lives of sarcoma patients was her passion. She was dedicated to increasing research
funds and finding new treatment options for patients. Amira was incredibly proud to be the 2014
recipient of the Stand Up to Sarcoma Courage Award which she received for her
strength and courage for not only fighting her own battle with sarcoma but for
her commitment to finding a cure for sarcoma.”
Amira’s family has created the Amira Yunis Fund and suggest donations in her in name at www.curesarcoma.org/amira-yunis/.
“Amira was a friend and a colleague who had time and energy for everyone who crossed her path,” said Adelaide Polsinelli, vice chairman at Compass. “She was a trailblazer not just for women in our industry but for all brokers with her dedication to work and her profound commitment to helping others in any way she could. This is a devastating loss to our industry but Amira will be most remembered as a loving wife and mother and as a loyal and compassionate friend.”
Laurie Golub, COO at Square Mile Capital Management called her ” one of a kind.”
“Amira entered the room and you immediately felt her presence,” said Golub. “She was an amazing combination of warmth, smarts, beauty, sense of humor and tenacity. She left her mark on our industry and will be greatly missed. I was lucky to call her my friend and cannot believe she is gone.”
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