In what will be one of the most significant commercial real estate deals of 2002, the Nashville office of Colliers Turley Martin Tucker is believed to be within several business days of finalizing a merger with Brentwood’s Mission Property Co. The local commercial real estate community has been abuzz for weeks as top officials with the two brokerage firms hammered out details of the merger agreement.
The deal is expected to make industrial-market dominator Colliers a category-leader in office sales and leasing, as well as property management. Headed by Whitfield Hamilton, the Nashville office of St. Louis-based Colliers employs nearly 30 people. Brentwood-based Mission Property Co., whose 6 million-plus-square-foot management portfolio is heavily weighted with office properties, has roughly two dozen employees on its payroll. Several of Mission’s founding principals and top-producing brokers are not expected to make the transition. They include Terry W. Smith, a managing broker with the firm involved in numerous transactions locally on behalf of Dell Computer Corp.
NashvillePost.com understands that Terry W. Smith is leading a group to start a new company. That company is expected to seek the affiliation of nationally known real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield. Smith worked for the firm when it operated a Nashville office, as did several other Mission alums, including Mark Gaw, Richard A. Fleming and Art McWilliams. Smith did not return calls for comment regarding the new venture.
Industry sources also expect Mission Chairman Tom S. Smith, a veteran commercial real estate investor/developer, and G. Nelson Crowe, the company’s chief operating officer, to go their own way after the merger. However, both are expected to continue to pursue real estate deals through their involvement with various investment partnerships.
Smith’s modus operandi is to start a firm, build it up, sell it, and then move on to the next opportunity. This was the case with Eakin & Smith, purchased by Highwoods Properties in a 1996 valued at about $100 million. Smith also is chairman of Meridian Equity Capital LLC, a real estate investment firm formed this July. Crowe is also part of that venture.
Colliers’ Hamilton reportedly master-minded the deal and has been diligently working for months now to smooth out all the wrinkles. In addition to significantly boosting the firm’s eight-person office division, headed by James G. Smith, and its property management capabilities, the merger effectively will remove a significant competitor from the local marketplace. Colliers benefited from a similar situation earlier this year, when Trammll Crow disbanded its Nashville office. While ProVenture Commercial Real Estate inherited the greatest number of Trammell Crow’s local employees, Colliers picked up a handful including top-producing industrial broker David McGaharen, office specialists Darla Hamby and Christian Schmeisser, and senior property manager Rae Stewart.
For Mission, the deal offers some degree of liquidity for stakeholders looking to cash out and pursue other opportunities. Industry sources note that Mission, which has grown rapidly since its formation three years ago, had probably reached maturity in the Nashville marketplace. This is particularly true given the level of softness in commercial real estate today. Acquiring another firm or being acquired by another firm offered Mission the greatest opportunity for future growth. And since national firms aren’t looking to buy their way into second-tier markets, the strong reputation and deep pockets of Colliers, a regional power, made for an attractive match.
Colliers likely will merge its offices with that of Mission’s in Maryland Farms, given the terms of its Burton Hills lease have just about expired.
Colliers declined comment for this story other than to say no agreements have been signed.