Avison Young Buys Former Grubb Affiliate in Raleigh-Durham, NC

Avison Young has acquired Thomas Linderman Graham Inc., which will further expand the company's presence in the Southeast region of the United States.

John Linderman, new AY principal

Avison Young has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Raleigh, N.C.–based Thomas Linderman Graham Inc., a full-service commercial real estate services company, Avison Young announced Friday. Terms of the acquisition, which is expected to close in two weeks, were not disclosed.

The acquisition will further expand Avison Young’s presence in the Southeast United States by adding 61 employees (including eight new principals) and new offices in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, N.C. With its origins dating to 1979, Thomas Linderman Graham was named Grubb & Ellis 2009 Affiliate of the Year.

TLG president and COO John Linderman, CEO Rex Thomas, Jack Graham, Lee Clyburn, William Allen, Arnold Siegmund, Gina Ide and Elizabeth Gates will join Avison Young as principals.

Linderman will also become managing director of the Raleigh-Durham offices., while Thomas, Clyburn, Allen and Siegmund will join AY as transaction professionals, Graham will handle administrative functions, Ide will be responsible for property management, and Gates will oversee research and marketing.

In the past three and a half years, Avison Young, Canada’s largest independently-owned commercial real estate services company, has grown from 300 to more than 1,100 real estate professionals across Canada and the United States.

This transaction will cap — or perhaps it won’t — the latest growth spurt of AY’s expansion in the United States. Earlier last week AY opened an office in Detroit, and almost as recently it acquired New Jersey–based project management firm The Walsh Company L.L.C. and opened three offices in South Florida. Since April, the company has also opened new offices in New York; San Francisco; Pittsburgh; Charleston, S.C.; New Jersey and a third office in Los Angeles.

With the Thomas Linderman Graham deal, Avison Young now has 40 offices in 32 markets: 25 offices in 19 markets in the United States and 15 offices in 14 markets in Canada.

“With our latest acquisitions, the U.S. is already on par with Canada on a run rate basis and is projected to exceed Canadian revenues in 2013,” Avison Young CEO Mark Rose told Commercial Property Executive.

Noting that Raleigh-Durham is a secondary market and that AY lacks a presence in several much larger markets, including Seattle and Denver, CPE asked Rose whether the company’s approach to its U.S. expansion is more strategic or more opportunistic. He responded: “Our strategy is methodical. It is to be in all major markets, plus …. We will be announcing other cities soon, so stay tuned.”

Meanwhile, this latest transaction focuses attention on a thriving regional economy. The Raleigh-Durham region is a secondary market, to be sure, but it isn’t particularly small. The 2011 population of the eight-county Raleigh-Durham-Cary Combined Statistical Area was estimated at 1,795,750.

New AY principal John Linderman, a North Carolina native, is an unabashed booster for the so-called Triangle. The region, he says is experiencing “a huge rising tide” and historically is “last in, first out of any recession.”

Linderman cites four pillars supporting the region’s stability and growth. First is that, with Raleigh as the capital of North Carolina and numerous county seats in the region, about 20 percent of the area’s work force is employed by some level of government. This in turn has helped keep the Triangle’s unemployment level below both state and national averages.

Next, the region’s three major universities (Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University) and other, smaller colleges, create a population of 100,000 students, “an economy unto its own,” Linderman said.

Third is the world-famous, 630-acre Research Triangle Park, home, Linderman said, to more than 50,000 employees making an average salary of roughly $40,000, for a combined annual payroll of about $2 billion.

Finally, Linderman said, there are the typical industries and businesses one would find in a metro area of the Triangle’s size. He also noted that before the recession, North Carolina had the highest percentage of manufacturing labor force of any state.

In addition to these factors, Linderman said, the Triangle region is recognized for a high quality of life. So far in 2012, Raleigh has been recognized as the #18 Best City in America (by Bloomberg Businessweek), for #1 Best Quality of Life (by Business Facilities Magazine) and as the #5 Best City for Raising a Family (by Forbes).