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Ex-Meridian CEO takes top talent to new firm: AHM Graves, Carmen fold into Resource

May 9, 2005

The sudden departure of Samuel F. Smith II from locally based Meridian Real Estate is proving to have a ripple effect in the local brokerage community.

Smith's new firm, Resource Commercial Real Estate, is up to six principals and 12 full-time brokers weeks after its official launch, and partners hint there may be more to come.

Two small firms, Carmel-based AHM Graves Commercial Real Estate Services and Carmen Commercial Real Estate Services, have merged with Resource. The new company is operating out of Carmen's headquarters in Parkwood Crossing.

In addition to Graves' Thomas M. Osborne and Carmen's Christopher U. Carmen, Resource principals include R.J. Rudolph Jr. and Timothy K. O'Brien, two top office brokers from CB Richard Ellis, and David W. Ponader, a real estate attorney who left Simon Property Group Inc. to join the startup.

Other employees include six additional brokers from Meridian, Graves and Carmen and five support staff.

Resource plans to offer office, industrial, retail, land and investment brokerage services, along with project management and incentive procurement services. So far, the team is heavy on office experience, but the firm's principals indicate they are looking to add people with expertise in other areas.

Because of its partners' experience, Resource will immediately become a factor in the local commercial real estate market, several brokers from other firms said. With 12 licensed salespeople, it becomes one of the 10 largest brokerages in the city.

"The new firm will be considered to be a very good firm," said Drew Augustin, president of locally based NAI Olympia Partners. "There's a number of very talented individuals with quite a bit of experience."

The effects on Meridian and CB Richard Ellis could be significant in the firms' short-term overall production because the brokers will likely take many clients with them to Resource, other brokers said. But the long-term effects on the firms' reputations and chances for success will be negligible, they predicted.

At Meridian, it will be business as usual, said John Robinson, one of the remaining partners along with Jeff Harris. Robinson described Smith's split and the resulting buyout as "peaceful.

"Absolutely nothing has changed," he said. "The majority continues to own and operate the company."

Smith remains a minority partner in Meridian's sister companies, Meridian Incentive Advisers and Meridian Asset Development.

Resource and Meridian Incentive Advisers intend to continue to work together on a case-by-case basis, said Smith and Leslie Rubin, president and majority owner of the economic-incentives procurement firm. Smith intends to retain his interest in the company.

"I don't foresee, at least in the near term, any changes," Rubin said.

The break from Meridian Asset Development hasn't been as clean. Smith said he has approached the other partners of the firm, which include Harris, Robinson and President John M. Bales II, about a buyout, adding he'd like to work with Meridian's development firm "from time to time."

"[Sam] remains a partner in Meridian Asset Development and we are looking forward to working with Resource as a conduit for future development opportunities," said Bales, indicating many details of Smith's split and future role with the firm remain to be worked out.

Resource has its own designs on development down the road. Ponader, who headed lease negotiations for Simon's community center division, plans to get the ball rolling on a development arm for Resource.

CBRE still has several heavy hitters on its local office team, including Dan Richardson, John Vandenbark and Nick Arterburn.

The firm recently hired former Duke Realty Corp. spokeswoman Donna Hovey and Dury Co. veteran Tim Murray to resurrect its retail division, which had been dormant since last year.

The pair is working with Chris Hodge, a Cincinnati-based CBRE broker, said local Managing Director David Reed. They recently inked their first deal, a 40,000-square-foot store for Atlanta-based Haverty Furniture Co. in a former Service Merchandise near Castleton Square Mall.


Principals in Resource Commercial Real Estate are, from left, Sam Smith, Chris Carmen, R.J. Rudolph Jr., Tom Osborne, Tim O'Brien and David Ponader.
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