National brokerages have cast ambitious eyes upon CREC, but the homegrown commercial real estate company has rejected several offers from big-name competitors.
Numerous South Florida firms such as CREC have held onto their stand-alone structures despite a wave of consolidations sweeping through the industry.
“The independent firm — our firm — we have the opportunity to be truly entrepreneurial, to be nimble, to shift very quickly, to forecast trends and respond to the dynamics in the marketplace,” said Carol Brooks, who co-founded CREC in 1989.
The Coral Gables-based company has grown to offer a wide spectrum of services, including asset and property management, tenant representation, construction management and creative workout solutions. With additional offices in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, CREC’s leasing and management portfolio is projected to close the year at 13.5 million square feet, up 18 percent from 2014.
Brooks attributes the growth to the company’s institutional infrastructure combined with an entrepreneurial spirit.
She said CREC is modeled after a law firm. The company brings in top performers as shareholders and gives employees investment opportunities in its real estate deals.
“Everybody’s success is intertwined,” Brooks said.
The Keyes Realty Co., like CREC, has also remained independent despite offers from national rivals.
Keyes, which is active in both commercial and residential markets, chose an alternative route to boost its market share. The company joined forces this year with Palm Beach Gardens-based Illustrated Properties, another independently run company that focuses on golf and high-end waterfront homes.
Mike Pappas, president and CEO of Keyes, said the merger allows them to leverage shared resources, specifically technology. The two companies continue to operate under their existing brand names and maintained their management teams and employees after the merger.
“We believe that we are partnering with our associates,” Pappas said. “In fact we celebrate collective independence. We’re independent, and our associates are independent. We allow them flexibility and freedom in our model that lets them do business the way they want to do it, whereas the corporate model is more structured and rule-oriented.”
A number of real estate companies, however, have opted for corporate ownership over the past two years.
Taylor & Mathis of Florida LLC sold to Cushman & Wakefield in August. Cushman also acquired Miami-based property manager Gibson Realty Group last April. The deals followed a $2 billion merger with Chicago-based DTZ, which significantly boosted Cushman’s national footprint.
The mandate after the DTZ merger was to “really grow the company and increase our market share,” said Larry Richey, a managing principal who leads the company’s Florida operations.
Cushman has since added over 300 people in Florida, two-thirds in South Florida.
The company competed against other brokerages for its South Florida acquisitions, Richey said.
Last year, Colliers International Group Inc. took over Miami-based Pointe Group Advisors LLC to strengthen the global company’s services in the region.
JLL went on to acquire Cresa South Florida, which focuses on tenant representation, for similar reasons.
Avison Young expanded its footprint two years ago when it purchased Abood Wood-Fay Real Estate Group LLC, a commercial brokerage and property management company that used to operate as Colliers International South Florida. Avison Young also purchased WG Compass Realty Cos. in West Palm Beach in 2013.
“It’s pretty phenomenal that that has not happened at CREC,” Brooks said.
When asked if CREC would always reject offers, co-founder and chairman Warren Weiser replied, “Always is a long time, but I don’t see us being anything but an independent firm.”