Grubb & Ellis, a national commercial real estate firm with a local affiliate called Grubb & Ellis | Harrison & Bates, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday and announced plans to sell the firm to a large investment house.
Harrison & Bates chief executive David Williams said that he expected the move.
“In some respects, this was met with a collective sigh of relief here,” Williams said. “We’ve been right on top of it for many months, and it seemed to be moving slow. So while it would have been good to see it resolved without a filing, it looks like they’ve sold to someone who will really move things forward.”
Bloomberg reported that Grubb & Ellis is being sold to financial services firm BGC. Grubb’s chief financial officer, Michael Rispoli, said in the petition that the housing collapse and a 2007 merger with a big realty firm had been a drag on the company.
Grubb & Ellis is the second major firm with local ties to fall on hard times. In July 2009, the local office of GVA Advantis crumbled, and several of the brokers jumped ship to start the Richmond office of Jones Lang LaSalle.
Sources in the commercial real estate have told BizSense that Harrison & Bates has at various points over the past year been in discussions with a local commercial brokerage about a potential merger.
Brokers said that the BGC sale would be good for Grubb & Ellis and that Harrison & Bates would be successful moving forward.
“The local firm Grubb & Ellis | Harrison & Bates firm has great people and are solid professionals,” Mark Claud, president of Commonwealth Commercial, said in an email, adding that BGC would strengthen the Grubb & Ellis platform.
Firms such as Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer and CBRE have given Harrison & Bates stiff competition through the recession, but Williams said the firm has stayed in the black.
Williams said the market had begun to improve and that Harrison & Bates was looking at new ways to bring in revenue.
Harrison & Bates has around 50 employees.