Peter Turchin, in his CBRE office, followed his father into the business. Agaton Strom for The Wall Street Journal

Peter Turchin followed his father into the real-estate brokerage business at CBRE Group Inc., but his father, Martin, didn’t like the idea of him following too closely in his footsteps.

Martin, one of the pioneers of New York’s modern office leasing brokerage business, said he saw too many examples of sons who were stifled by their fathers when they worked too closely together. “Their learning curve was always limited by their dad,” says Martin, now 75, who retired from CBRE as vice chairman in 1998.

Peter, now 44, took a slightly different route. Rather than focus on representing tenants, like his father did, he went into the business of representing landlords.

The move has turned out to be a good one. Representing major office building landlords like Mortimer Zuckerman ’s Boston Properties Inc., SL Green Realty Corp, and Vornado Realty Trust helped Peter Turchin advance to become co-head of CBRE’s division that represents landlords. Last month, he was named a vice chairman.

“I get to play landlord, but I don’t have to be a landlord,” says Peter.

New York’s best-known real estate families own and develop property. But there are also real estate dynasties in the brokerage business where top players can become as wealthy as some property owners. Other well-known examples include the Stacom and Laginestra families, also at CBRE, and the Meyer family at Colliers.

The story of the Turchins illustrates the tension that can sometimes arise in these families. Martin on one hand believed that real estate was a great business for Peter to enter. On the other hand, he strongly felt that children should make it on their own.

This was especially true, because Martin cast a long shadow over the business by the time Peter launched his career. Raised in a family of garment workers, Martin, a lawyer, started working as a broker for Edward S. Gordon Co. in 1985 and soon became one of the firm’s leading brokers.

Over the years, he won the industry’s prestigious Ingenious Deal of the Year award three times and represented such big name tenants as Sterling Drug Co., Viacom Inc. and First Boston.

Martin also changed the brokerage business because he was among the first to recognize ways for firms to respond to the increasing complexity of deals. He played a lead role in starting Edward S. Gordon’s consulting group that hired MBAs, lawyers and architects to a business that historically had been dominated by salesmen.

Partly thanks to the consulting group, the firm became New York’s biggest office broker in terms of deal volume. Edward S. Gordon was acquired in 1996 by Insignia Financial Group, which in turn was bought by CBRE in 2003.

Like his father, Peter also got his law degree. He decided to go into the real-estate business because he saw the “joy” his father took in his work and initially wanted to represent tenants like his father. But as an entry-level employee, he wasn’t given the choice.

Tenant representatives are the stars of the brokerage business partly because they generally make more than landlord representatives on specific deals. The rule of thumb in the industry is that tenant reps get a full commission, while the landlord’s agent gets 25% to 50% of a commission.

But Peter Turchin made out just fine. He says he soon realized he had talents for evaluating properties, repositioning buildings, crafting marketing campaigns, working with architects and designers and planning ground-up construction. He has worked with some of the city’s most prominent office skyscrapers including 5 Penn Plaza and 7 World Trade Center.

“Marty was a very tough negotiator, Peter does it more elegantly,” says Mr. Zuckerman, executive chairman of Boston Properties, who has worked with members of the Turchin family for about four decades.

Peter insists that in the brokerage business the most valuable thing a father can offer his son isn’t a core asset but a sense of historical perspective. Martin has lived through more market cycles than Peter. “He told me I shouldn’t complain when the market turned because you bring more clients in the door when space is empty, that’s when they see value in what you do.”

Martin today is enjoying life after real-estate brokerage. Living in Florida, he is a board member at Boston Properties as well as at Gencorp Inc., the California-based aerospace and defense contractor. He also is improving his golf and tennis games and is doing a lot of traveling. Last week, he was on a safari in Zambia.

Martin questions whether Peter’s career has benefited from the family association at all. “I used to say that the name Turchin hindered his ability to get ahead,” he joked of his reputation.