Autonomy at heart of breakup at Colliers

Unable to win the autonomy they sought five years ago, a group of high-profile commercial real estate brokers in Reno decided to create their own independent firm.

And their sudden departure from Colliers International last week left the established firm, one of the dominant players in commercial real estate in the region, in a season of rebuilding.

Eight brokers abruptly left Colliers International, taking with them much of the firm's administrative staff, to create Alliance Commercial Real Estate Services LLC.

A ninth broker, Scott Shanks, left the development company ProLogis to join the new firm.

Colliers' entire property management group,meanwhile, left to create Alliance Commercial Managements Services LLC.

Leaving Colliers were industrial brokers Paul Perkins, Dave Simonsen,Mike Hoeck and Dan Oster.

Retail brokers Gary Johnson, Kelly Bland and Joel Grace joined the exodus.

Dominic Brunetti, a specialist in office leasing, left Colliers and will be joined by Shanks in the new firm's office group.

In all, the new firm numbers 28 nearly all of them associated with Colliers International just days earlier.

But Tim Ruffin, vice president of the office properties group and former managing partner of the Reno office, stayed put.

Both the departing brokers and Colliers executives said the breakup was the result of different visions about the amount of independence the Reno office would have.

And in that, there's some irony: The Colliers office in Reno was created about five years ago when a group of brokers left CB Richard Ellis in search of more autonomy.

Several of that group were among those who departed Colliers last week.

The brokers who created Alliance Commercial Real Estate Services were careful last week to avoid criticism of Colliers International.

Their hopes for their new company, however, hinted at their frustrations.

"We won't have the burden of overhead, of a corporate staff," said Hoeck.

Added Bland,"Decisions are best made closest to where the business is being done.

We just want to focus on our clients."

Executives of San Jose-based Colliers International, which operates 10 offices along the West Coast under the Colliers flag, believed the level of independence sought by the Reno brokers couldn't exist within their company.

"They really didn't want to belong to an organization.

They wanted to have their own shop," said Eric Nielsen, chief financial officer of the parent company."We wish them well."

Nielsen said Barry Brown, named managing partner of the Reno office only this spring, now will begin to rebuild the staff.

Brown, who has more than 30 years of experience in commercial real estate, is a specialist in industrial properties.

That matches well, Nielsen said, with the office expertise of Ruffin and the real estate investment experience of Floyd Rowley, who also remains with Colliers.

Other Colliers International offices in the region, Nielsen said, will provide support for the brokerage of retail space.

"The office did very well, and it will continue to do very well," he said.

Commercial real estate is a business where the relationships of brokers with their clients usually are more important than the sign on the door of the office, and the brokers who created Alliance Commercial Real Estate said last week that most of their clients have chosen to follow them.

The new firm will operate essentially as a cooperative in which profits are shared, Perkins said.

The brokers had kicked around the idea of a new firm for several months, and made a bid later turned down to purchase the Reno office.

The brokers didn't decide to move until a meeting in San Jose with Colliers executives on April 29 left it clear no agreement on autonomy would be reached.

The next Monday not even 72 hours later the Colliers brokers were gone.

Sort of.

County and state records show that the limited liability corporation that owns the office building occupied by Colliers International at 5345 Kietzke Lane includes as its members Perkins, Simonsen, and Johnson three of the departing brokers along with Ruffin.

Brokers from the two companies were working side by side in the building last week, and questions remained about which if either company would remain.


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