Chicago's Jones Lang LaSalle attracts talented local brokers to establish Indy branch

December 8, 2008

Some of the city's most prominent commercial real estate brokers have resigned from locally owned Meridian Real Estate to launch an Indianapolis affiliate of Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle.

John Robinson, who founded Meridian in 1993 with Jeff Harris, joined five of his former Meridian colleagues — Michael Corr, Steve Schwegman, Brian Seitz, Jake Sturman and Abby Cooper — to start the office, which opened Dec. 1 in a temporary space at Keystone at the Crossing.

Three other people joined the firm as well, including Dan O'Neil, a Jones Lang LaSalle employee who moved from Los Angeles to lead the Indianapolis location with Robinson.

"What we have amassed here," Robinson said, "is a very powerful group of experienced brokers."

But the shake-up comes as a blow to Meridian, one of the city's largest local firms, which has enjoyed a significant share of the region's office and industrial market in recent years. After losing brokers, Meridian may be forced to operate on a smaller scale for now, said Stan Evans, past president of the Indianapolis Commercial Board of Realtors.

"It changes the profile or size of what their operation is today," he said. "But I don't have any reason to think that Meridian won't survive."

Schwegman, who had been a principal and senior vice president at Meridian, said he left Meridian because Jones Lang LaSalle offered a chance to expand his business into new markets. The company, which has offices around the world, provides a "global platform" a local firm simply can't match, he said.

"Our departure from Meridian had nothing to do with the state of affairs of Meridian," he said. "It was everything to do with an opportunity with a firm that hadn't been in Indianapolis."

Doug McCoy, a visiting real estate lecturer at Indiana University, said the move could give brokers access to new referrals or ways to stretch their business. The tough economy may have influenced decisions, too, he said.

"When times are good, we just keep running with it," he said. "When times get tough, we tend to see where we're vulnerable or it becomes more obvious about what direction we need to take."

Jones Lang LaSalle had been looking to enter the Indianapolis market for the past year, said Steve Stratton, the company's Midwest brokerage director.

The firm already employs 150 corporate staffers in Indianapolis, but those officials mainly work in fields such as construction and facilities management. He said the new office gives the company local brokerage capabilities it didn't have before.

Even so, local real estate officials said the new office wouldn't dramatically reshape the Indianapolis commercial real estate scene.

"At its core, real estate is still a local business," Evans said. "It's the people, and those people are still the local people who have been here doing business for lots of years."

That's why Meridian remains viable, said Harris, the firm's president. The departures leave Meridian with 12 brokers.

"Really, there isn't anything that's changed over here other than we have lost a couple of guys who were good employees," he said. "We are sticking to our core values and services — they've always worked and I don't have any reason to believe they won't always continue to work."

He said Meridian retains all the listings left behind by the departing brokers, except for Robinson's 1.2-million-square-foot Keystone at the Crossing office park account.


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