Lee & Associates Goes North of the Border with 1st Canadian Office

The largest broker-owned CRE firm in the U.S. is expanding into Canada, opening its first office there, led by industry veteran Chris Anderson.
Chris Anderson Headshot 2014-04

Chris Anderson

Lee & Associates, the largest broker-owned commercial real estate firm in the United States is partnering with a firm in Vancouver, British Columbia, to expand into Canada by opening its first office outside the U.S.

The firm, now known as Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate (BC) Ltd., is headed by CRE veteran Chris Anderson and had most recently been operating as DTZ Vancouver Real Estate Ltd.

“In the last year, we have been talking aggressively with Chris about the possibilities of a Lee office in Canada. When Chris and his partners attended our Broker Summit in October, that was a defining moment in their decision to join our firm,” Jeffrey Rinkov, CEO of Lee & Associates, said in a prepared statement.

Rinkov said the adding the Vancouver office will help Lee & Associates in its brokerage and expansion efforts in Canada as well as the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver is a popular market for local and national investors and developers. It is also viewed as a safe haven for international investors. Located in downtown Vancouver, the office has 22 agents that service industrial, retail and office sectors as well as land and investment sales.

“Each of our last three years has produced record revenues for the firm, but we have a lot of work ahead of us in order to achieve the market share we believe is appropriate and within reach for our company,” Anderson said.

Prior to joining the DTZ brand, the Vancouver office was an affiliate of JJ Barnicke, headquartered in Toronto. JJ Barnicke joined DTZ as the Canadian affiliate in 2008 and grew to 15 offices in Canada with a mix of corporate-owned and affiliate offices.

In January 2015, DTZ merged with Cassidy Turley. Nine months later, DTZ was acquired by Cushman & Wakefield, creating the second largest real estate services firm behind CBRE and JLL with about 43,000 employees and $191 billion in transaction value.

“With the recent merger of DTZ, Cassidy Turley and Cushman & Wakefield, our affiliate office had been orphaned by the new combined brand,” Anderson said. “Since we first learned of the pending merger we identified, researched and had discussions with several of the top-ranked commercial real estate brands, both in United States and Canada. Everything kept pointing back to Lee & Associates as the right fit for our business model and, more importantly, our culture.”

Jeff Rinkov

Jeffrey Rinkov

Meanwhile, Rinkov noted “Canada had been on Lee & Associates’ radar” for a number of years. “We focused on expanding with partners that understand our entrepreneurial model that we believe provide best of class services for our clients. Fortunately now we think we found that partner that understands our culture,” he told CPE.

He described partnering with Lee & Associates as a “different opportunity” for those who prefer not to be part of the three top commercial real estate services firms.

“Our brokers control their own destiny. They have control and autonomy over how their offices are run,” Rinkov said. “What we’re looking for and where we find success in other markets is finding brokers that are somewhat disenchanted with this concept of their business cards changing every two years and their platform and service model changing every two years.”

For the past several years, Lee & Associates used partnerships as a way to expand within the U.S. Last January, the firm opened its first Houston office by teaming up with Griffin Partners. In 2014, new offices were added in Cleveland and Denver.

Rinkov said he expects to announce several more U.S. partnerships within the first quarter. He listed Portland, Seattle, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Miami as cities for possible expansions. The company will also be considering more growth in Canada and hopes to seek partners in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Edmonton and Winnipeg.

In October, Lee & Associates formed a strategic alliance with a London-based real estate advisory business, Gerald Eve, which has offices and business relationships throughout Western Europe. While both firms are independent, the alliance allows them to collaborate and share resources on existing clients and pursue future international business opportunities across both continents.

“When we talk to our Gerald Eve contacts, we’re talking about many of the same capital sources, many of the same international tenants. There’s tremendous synergy,” Rinkov said.