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VALLEY AND VENTURA COUNTY | VENTURA COUNTY REVIEW

Real Estate Firm Merger Marries the Local With the Powerful

July 21, 1998|LEO SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's the old corporate courtship.

Executives of a large, national firm want to move into a new market. Executives of a smaller firm, well established in that market, want to hook up with a large firm with national clout. They eye each other, discuss possibilities and, if the situation appears mutually beneficial, they form a partnership.

Two businesses that recently followed this financial flirtation were Crocker DiMeo Realty of Camarillo and Coldwell Banker Commercial Carlsberg, a division of the Santa Monica-based Carlsberg Management Co. The two firms have completed a merger that will bring the sizable Coldwell Banker Commercial Carlsberg presence into Ventura County.

"They checked us out, we checked them out, and we married," said Ron Lima, senior vice president of Coldwell Banker Commercial Carlsberg.

"We both thought the timing was excellent--commercial business is strong in Ventura County, it's growing and activity is wonderful," Lima said. "With [Crocker DiMeo's] knowledge and our name and the people and resources we can bring to the table, we felt we could build a strong company in Ventura County together over the next several years."

The Coldwell Banker organization, founded in 1906, has long worked with residential real estate brokers in Ventura County through its eight Coldwell Banker Towne & Country offices. It wasn't until about a year ago that the Commercial Carlsberg affiliate started to seek out the county's commercial brokers.

In the early 1990s, Coldwell Banker sold off its commercial real estate division, which became CB Commercial. A no-competition clause prohibited Coldwell Banker from reentering the market until January 1997. When the time came, Lima said, a partnership with Crocker DiMeo, founded in 1995, seemed a relatively secure and speedy way to make itself known to the Ventura County business community. Coldwell Banker will start with five brokers, he said, with a goal of growing to about a dozen, covering the industrial, office and retail markets, as well as commercial and apartment investments.

"We had two ways to grow--recruit brokers or search out somebody we could merge with," Lima said. "What we were looking for was somebody who was well established, had a good reputation and had been in the business a few years. Mike Crocker and Mike DiMeo had been in the business a few years. They met all the qualifications we were looking for."

Mike Crocker agreed.

"We provide them with a combined 50 years of expertise in the Ventura County commercial market," Crocker said. "The whole commercial industry is changing and all the brokerage houses are jockeying around for position to get more of a market share."

For Crocker DiMeo, the association with Coldwell Banker should bring the firm to a higher level of operation.

"Instead of us being a mom-and-pop niche player, we are a national player," Crocker said. "We were sitting here doing really well, a really good job, but this gives us far greater tools. They currently have 400 commercial offices [nationwide] and we can interface with them. We can do weekly advertising with publications at a much discounted rate. They have an incredible computer system that we can go on and get information we need."

Crocker said his firm will continue to concentrate on the Ventura County commercial real estate market, but the merger should have particular impact on business with Southern California investors looking to purchase property outside the area.

"We do sales all over the state, we've done a tremendous amount of volume in Sacramento," he said. "There's a movement afoot of people moving their money out of Southern California to other parts of the country. A lot of investors, with the technology that exists today, invest everywhere."

In addition to bringing its commercial business to Ventura County, Lima said, Coldwell Banker Commercial Carlsberg probably will expand its property management and construction services to Ventura County.

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