Lee & Associates Launches National Investment Group

The investment sales market has hit a rough patch due to the credit freeze-up, but despite this, Lee & Associates announced today it is launching an investment sales arm, to be dubbed Lee Investment Services Group. The new group will work in all product types, including office, industrial, retail and multi-family, and will be headquartered in Downtown Los Angeles. Patrick Benton (pictured), former managing director of corporate real estate for Countrywide Financial, will serve as president of the new entity, while Matt Sullivan, formerly of Colliers, will join Lee ISG as founding principal and managing director. Benton said despite the sluggish transaction market, he believes this is an excellent time to start an investment sales company. “This is a great time to recruit,” he said. “People who 18 months ago wouldn’t have contemplated a move, are taking our calls.” “Transactions are going to get done,” Benton said, as some owners will be forced to sell their properties, or have them foreclosed on. Lee & Associates brokers have done some investment sales work, but they were mostly one-off transactions, he said. Lee ISG will initially service California, and then expand nationally, offering its services throughout the nation. Benton said that Sullivan will transact some sales nationally in the first quarter of next year. In addition to carrying its own book of business, Lee ISG will provide the 34 Lee offices with research, financial analysis and strategic services, and facilitate referrals between the buy and sell side of transactions. Benton said Lee ISG can also help Lee offices recruit investment sales brokers. Benton, during his 16-year career at Countrywide, was responsible for the company’s large acquisitions, and managed a staff of 400. Sullivan formed the private client advisory group at Colliers, and was involved in closing more than 300 transactions, totaling in excess of $1.5 billion. Also joining Lee ISG is Stephen Peters, a former Wall Street bond trader who has experience in capital markets at several large Wall Street firms. He joins Lee ISG as principal. When asked when he thinks transaction volume will pick up, Benton said believes that a major obstacle is buyer and seller expectations, which have not yet come into alignment. He said that that is likely to happen in 2009.