Avison Young Gains Foothold in Phoenix with GPE Acquisition

The purchase of The GPE Cos. marks Avison Young's entry into Arizona and the opening of its 52nd office in the U.S.

By Gail Kalinoski

David Genovese, Avison Young
David Genovese of Avison Young

Phoenix—Toronto-based Avison Young, the world’s fastest-growing commercial real estate services firm, has entered the hot Arizona market for the first time with the acquisition of The GPE Cos. of Phoenix.

Financial details were not disclosed. The GPE Cos., which consists of GPE Management Services LLC and GPE Commercial Advisors LLC, was a privately held, third-party real estate firm operating for a wide range of clients for 43 years in the greater Phoenix region. Over the past four decades, the company’s deals exceeded $2.5 billion in real estate value. The firm currently manages 6 million square feet of commercial space in the Phoenix metro area.

With this latest acquisition, Avison Young now has 52 offices in the United States, 77 offices in 70 markets around the world and approximately 100 million square feet of retail, industrial and office properties under management in North America alone. The company has more than 2,200 real estate professionals in Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Europe.

GPE was rebranded this week as Avison Young. The change adds 29 new employees to Avison Young, including David Genovese, Julie Johnson and Alexandra Loye, who are now principals of Avison Young. Genovese, who had been president, designated broker & principal of GPE, has also become managing director of the Phoenix office and the firm’s statewide efforts.

“The acquisition of GPE provides Avison Young with a strong foundation, particularly in terms of brokerage and property management, in Arizona as we begin to roll out our expansion program in the state,” Avison Young chair & CEO Mark Rose said in a prepared statement. “With David and the rest of the GPE team on board, we are again adding individuals who are respected for their leadership, extensive industry experience and in-depth local knowledge. More importantly, we also know that they will fit seamlessly into our principal-led, collaborative culture and provide a superior level of service to clients.”

Genovese told Commercial Property Executive he made the first overture to Avison Young, initially looking to form a strategic partnership or alliance rather than a merger. He knew the firm didn’t have a presence in Arizona and particularly in the rapidly-growing Phoenix market, which has nearly 4.4 million residents and is the 13th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. But Avison Young prefers to grow through M&A so the talk quickly turned to a sale, Genovese said.

The reason he agreed to the merger was part of the reason he was seeking an alliance, he told CPE.

“We were seeing the change in our industry, where everyone was becoming bigger and many of the national firms were merging and becoming more global,” Genovese said. “We looked at it and said we’ve done very well as a local firm but we’re having more difficulty getting into some of the institutional accounts. Maybe some of the relationships would help open up doors for us.”

Genovese said the infrastructure, resources and global network developed by Avison Young was important to GPE, as was the similar culture that emphasized principal-led offices and a focus on client service. He said it was important that the entire GPE staff would move to Avison Young.

Rose and other Avison Young executives praised Genovese and the GPE team, particularly for their work in healthcare real estate.

“With this acquisition, we have quickly established a presence in one of the largest and fastest-growing metro markets in the U.S. Furthermore, GPE is a well-established player in the highly dynamic medical office market, which is becoming increasingly important to our clients across the country,” Hiren Thakar, Avison Young principal & senior vice president of corporate strategy, said in a prepared statement. “David and his team will now be able to take advantage of Avison Young’s extensive resources to better serve the thriving medical office property sector in Phoenix. At the same time, his team will be able to collaborate with other Avison Young offices and provide multi-market medical office solutions for clients.”

Genovese said Johnson, who is a nationally known healthcare broker, and Loye, who partnered with her on many of the healthcare transactions in the firm, are excited to take advantage of opportunities that will come their way with a larger company.

He said GPE, which had been doing medical office and other healthcare deals since the beginning days of the firm, had begun to see accounts going to regional or national businesses rather than local firms.

“After successfully spanning more than 40 years as a local firm, GPE recognized the need to expand its reach globally to provide its clients with the best investment opportunities and resources to thrive,” Genovese said.

Also this week, Avison Young acquired Calgary-based property appraisal company Linnell Taylor Lipman and Associates Ltd. In January, the company acquired U.K.-based North Rae Sanders and opened a new office in Coventry, U.K., and also bought Toronto-based property appraisal company Metro Realty Group Inc. Late last year, Avison Young opened offices in Mexico City and in Memphis, Tenn., increasing its coverage of the state where it had earlier opened offices in Nashville and Knoxville after acquiring Cushman & Wakefield|Cornerstone.