CBRE’s three-year courtship of Sitehawk pays off

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Persistence finally paid off in CBRE Group Inc.’s quest to acquire the Indianapolis-based Sitehawk Retail Real Estate boutique.

The Los Angeles-based real estate powerhouse on Nov. 2 accomplished its goal of beefing up its retail brokerage services by buying Sitehawk.

But the courtship, which actually began nearly three years ago, was well worth the wait. With 13 retail brokers, CBRE now boasts the largest retail brokerage in the city.  

“Our interest never wavered,” said John Merrill, managing director of the local CBRE office. “We understood when we approached them that it was an idea at that time.”

Merrill has led the CBRE’s Indianapolis office since December 2010.To help land the job, he had written a strategic plan for the firm in which he identified retail as an area that needed bolstering.

Until purchasing Sitehawk, CBRE only had two retail leasing brokers and two investment brokers focusing on the sale of retail properties.

Once approached, Sitehawk's four partners—Larry Davis, Steve Delaney, Scott Gray and Mark Perlstein—took several months to seriously consider selling.

“The joke around here is that it takes a while for us to get things done,” Gray said. “The reality is, our company has been approached several times by other companies. But as we’ve gotten a little older, we’ve always thought about a succession plan.”

As an independent office, Sitehawk is an affiliate of the national Chainlinks Retail Advisors network. CBRE's purchase of two other Chainlinks members—FAMECO Real Estate LP in Philadelphia in 2013 and United Commercial Realty in Dallas in January 2015—led the Sitehawk partners to take notice.

“When a company of CBRE’s stature—the pre-eminent global real estate firm—calls, it’s kind of like E.F. Hutton,” Gray said. “You’re going to want to sit down and listen.”

The four partners, all of whom are joining CBRE in leadership roles, bought The Linder Co. from Gary Linder in 2005 and renamed it Sitehawk.

Linder, a local real estate pioneer, suffered a brain aneurysm and died in December 2007 at age 56. He founded The Linder Co. in 1982, starting out as a one-man real estate brokerage.

CBRE wasn't the first firm to approach the Sitehawk partners about selling, Davis said, but they concluded CBRE offered the best fit.

CBRE’s absorption of Sitehawk means there’s one less locally based real estate brokerage in the city, said Todd Maurer, who operates Newmark Knight Frank Halakar. His local firm, Halakar, affiliated with New York City-based Newmark Grubb Knight Frank in 2010.

“That’s just the way it’s going,” Maurer lamented. “The boutiques are mostly gone.”

Merrill at CBRE acknowledged the trend.

“As clients are changing the way they’re buying services, they want to deal with one company,” he said. “It’s much more efficient for them.”

Sitehawk’s office will remain at 8500 Keystone Crossing. All 24 employees are expected to stay with the firm.

Sitehawk clients include Old Navy, Costco, J.C. Penney, Chase, LA Fitness, Darden Restaurants, Gap, Hobby Lobby and Panda Express, among hundreds of retailers.

The firm also provides leasing and management services for retail property owners and boasts a portfolio of about 8 million square feet.

With 36 licensed brokers, CBRE is the city’s largest real estate brokerage, according to IBJ statistics. Sitehawk’s 11 brokers rank it as the eighth-largest.

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