The Cardinal Promise

Why Choose Cardinal?

John Culbertson, Managing Partner

A native Charlottean, John Culbertson founded Cardinal Partners because he saw the need for an advocate to navigate complex real estate projects. Before founding Cardinal, John spent 15 years working in institutional, commercial real estate.

Past positions: Senior Vice President, Trammell Crow Company

Regional Director, Heitman/International Airport Centers, an institutional real estate developer of airport cargo facilities owned by a top-five pension fund.

Education: MBA from Queens University McColl School of Business

Frequent participant in Harvard’s Program on Negotiation

Enthusiastic participant in the Strategic Coach™ program

Boards and civic involvement (Current and past):

North Carolina Turnpike Authority, Board Member
NAIOP, Board Member
REBIC, Board Member
Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, Board Member
Charlotte Regional Roads Committee, Board Member
North Carolina Department of Commerce, Economic Development Board, Board Member
Charlotte Regional Partnership Board, Executive Committee

UNC Charlotte Childress-Klein Center for Real Estate Board of Advisors
Catawba Lands Conservancy, Board of Directors
Renaissance WestCommunity Initiative, Board Member
Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, Board Member
Trinity Episcopal School, Annual Fund Chair
Queens University of Charlotte Learning Society, President
Charlotte Ballet, Dancing with the Stars participant

I know this region. I know the people. I know the issues we face.

Three generations of my family have made their home here. So I know the absolute necessity of investing in the community, tackling tough issues, and, when necessary, taking risks.

Many of you know my father, Bob Culbertson, who served on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board during the first integration push. You may know my mother, Peggy Culbertson, the first female Chair of Charlotte’s Planning Commission. And everyone knew my dear late sister, Ruth Culbertson Samuelson. She served as a member and Republican whip of the North Carolina House of Representatives and as an at-large Mecklenburg County Commissioner.

As kids, we were expected to get involved in community issues and to make a difference. That belief has stuck with me. I care about this region, and my passion is to dig in and make a positive impact.

I’m also passionate about my family and spending time with my three sons and my wife, Leslie. We enjoy skiing, tennis, and having adventures at our home in northern Michigan.

Brian Gullette

Brian Gullette, Partner

Brian is a native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who joined Cardinal Partners in 2021 first as an advisor and then as a Partner. Brian brings 25 years of entrepreneurial leadership in technology-driven start-ups to his approach to Commercial Real Estate, with a focus on rigorous analysis and a systematic, repeatable process of problem-solving.

Past positions: CEO, CRO and National Sales Director roles for enterprise software startups delivering novel solutions to complex business problems in Real Estate, Manufacturing and Business Intelligence.

EducationMaster of Public Policy from Duke University and graduate study in Geography and Regional Planning at the University of Kentucky

I was born in Chapel Hill, have lived in Raleigh and Charlotte, and have been a part of the entrepreneurial (and political) ecosystem in North Carolina for most of my life.

I’m quick to embrace new technology, and I believe that its disruption of the centuries-old nature and practice of Real Estate is only just beginning. But, whether it’s using private capital to build fiber-to-the-home infrastructure for Real Estate development or launching an online market for the recreational use of private land, I’ve learned that innovation and success depend far more on integrity, clarity and diligent execution than on the sizzle and power of your tech.

I’ve long been impressed by John’s innovative approach to using technology and developing durable processes to better meet client needs, but it was The Cardinal Motto (“Advise first, transact second…and only if advisable”) that really set the hook for me in joining the team. 

Life is meant to be lived. Especially outdoors. I enjoy cycling, swimming, hiking, adventure racing, fly fishing, surfing, baseball, reading…I could go on. And I do, because my batteries are always recharged by my wife, Beth, my son, my daughter, and a very large extended family of brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins and more. And 2 goofy dogs.

The Cardinal Team

As a lean, nimble practice, we strive to maintain the highest standards of performance and value by leveraging a trusted team of professionals who are at the top of their field.

Paul Brunilda


Paul gets his hands dirty in the analysis of every deal. He is skilled with ARGUS and has a master’s degree in commercial real estate.

Katie Kirby


Katie is the key to the Cardinal back office. She ensures bills are paid, and all of the accounts are on track.

Joe Cunningham


Joe is the brain behind the buzz that makes our content sizzle. Joe helps us take as much pride in newsletter and our marketing as we do our client deliverables.

Cardinal isn’t for everybody. If you are looking for someone to transact on a simple deal, you should consider hiring a traditional broker. But if you need someone to serve as a trusted, critical part of your team, advocating for you and providing counsel, let’s talk.