Harrison & Bates to cease operations

Harrison & Bates Inc. will halt new transactional services starting May 31. (BizSense file photo)

After abruptly losing its national flag and watching one-third of its brokers jump ship, a longtime local commercial real estate firm is winding down.

Harrison & Bates announced Friday its plans to cease operations in the coming months. That includes a halt on new transactional services as of May 31.

The decision will bring an end to a Richmond company that dates to 1910 and will leave about a dozen brokers with decisions to make on where they’ll go next.

“It’s a hard moment for all of us,” said Harrison & Bates CEO David Williams, who has been with the firm for about 30 years. “There was a fork in the road and we had to pick what was the best for our clients.”

It comes amidst a continued shakeup in the local commercial real estate brokerage scene, beginning with Harrison & Bates being dropped by Colliers International late last year in favor of a group that had been with CBRE.

CBRE then was forced to create a new corporate-owned Richmond office, which since has poached more than a handful of Harrison & Bates brokers.

Williams, who said the loss of the Colliers affiliation was unexpected, added that the firm’s attempts to either align with another national brand or go it alone under the Harrison & Bates brand ultimately were dashed by the defections to CBRE.

“It’s hard to right the ship after that one-two punch happens,” he said. “It’s bittersweet. We had the best year on several metrics that we’ve ever had in 2018.”

Williams said clients and employees already have been notified of the plan to wind down. He said a skeleton crew made up of veteran broker Bill Mattox and CFO/COO John Leitch will continue on for the time being to help handle lingering accounting and other functions for some clients.

Beyond that, Williams wouldn’t comment on where everyone goes, other than to say that some will retire, including veteran Steve Gentil.

Williams said he will continue on in the industry, declining to say where he’s going. “Before May 31 it will be clear where everyone’s going,” he said.

Their next moves likely won’t be the end of chances in the local brokerage industry, Williams said.

“Things are still changing quickly and dramatically,” he said. “I think you’ll see some additional players come to Richmond – even some who talked to our firm over the last few months. You’ll continue to see some musical chairs in the marketplace.”

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