Lee Breaks into Atlanta Market with Bryant Merger

The joint venture gives Lee its first presence in the Southeast while providing Bryant with a national reach.

August 16, 2010
By Joshua Pringle, Associate Editor

(L to R) Mark Hollan, Dick Bryant, John DeCouto and Scott Crooks of Bryant Commercial Real Estate Partners.

Lee & Associates has expanded its national platform through a merger with Atlanta-based Bryant Commercial Real Estate Partners. The joint venture gives Lee its first presence in the Southeast while providing Bryant with a national reach.

President Richard Bryant formed Bryant Commercial Real Estate Partners in 2004 with a team he had been working with in the area since the 90s, and his office’s 31 brokers offer the expertise Lee was seeking in the submarket. “Their reputation, quality and style mesh perfectly with us,” said Edward Indvik, vice chairman of Lee & Associates.

The Atlanta office is the 41st under Lee’s umbrella. Most of Lee’s offices are located in California, but the company is looking to continually expand nationwide and also head into Canada. “We are in constant conversations to do that,” Indvik said.

Lee has added ten offices in the last three years, and Indvik would like to see that number grow as high as 200 within the foreseeable future. “We do our biggest growth in down cycles,” he said. Bryant says his company had been looking for the last four years to join a national firm and talked to a number of companies, but few are expanding, and few offered the kind of expanded services platform that Lee does.

Bryant was also attracted to Lee’s business structure, which he said benefits from “an entrepreneurial decision-making process that is streamlined and efficient.” Whereas other firms may be subject to a more bureaucratic model, Lee gives each office an equal voice in corporate matters. When Bill Lee started the company more than 30 years ago, he and his other brokers put up their own capital, thereby becoming shareholders. Through this design, Lee’s brokers-turned-owners share a vested interest, share profits and decision-making, and also create a debt-free organization. Indvik said the structure is “corporate legally but runs like a partnership, leaving local decisions to local offices.”

Although Atlanta’s commercial real estate market is currently scraping along the bottom, Bryant believes Atlanta is in a better position than a lot of cities to bounce back. “With Atlanta being such an active, dynamic city, in good times we see a lot of growth, sometimes unsustainable growth,” Bryant said. “Atlanta may have been hit a little harder, but there’s also an opportunity for it to come around rather quickly.” Case in point: the Bryant office has seen 30 percent more activity in the last year than it did the previous.