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3 Star Brokers Leave CB Richard Ellis a Second Time

March 10, 2004|Roger Vincent | Times Staff Writer

Three prominent Los Angeles commercial real estate brokers have left CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. to join Madison Partners and create a full-service boutique real estate firm.

Hunt Barnett, Rick Buckley and Chris Houge, who have been involved in some of Southern California's biggest real estate transactions in recent years, resigned from CB Richard Ellis on Tuesday. They are joining Bob Safai, who has been independently operating Madison Partners in an informal arrangement with fellow broker Gary Weiss. All five are principals in the reconstituted firm.

Madison Partners will broker commercial property sales and represent both tenants and landlords in lease negotiations. It already has $300 million in sales and financing deals pending and leases valued at $200 million in negotiation, the brokers said. Safai predicted that the private company would do $1 billion in real estate deals this year.

Barnett, Buckley and Houge left Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis in 1999 to open a West Los Angeles office for New York-based competitor Insignia Financial Group. The office was set up to focus on large transactions.

Last year CB Richard Ellis bought Insignia for $431 million. Industry observers speculated that the three brokers wouldn't stay long with CB the second time around. They were right.

"We want to control our own destiny," Barnett said.

Madison Partners will remain focused on the Westside -- where it is sub-subleasing a Century City office from CB Richard Ellis -- while looking for business in downtown Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley and other markets, Weiss said.

The Madison Partners principals have "created a formidable boutique," said Brad Cox, a principal of Trammell Crow Co., a Dallas-based real estate developer and brokerage with offices in Los Angeles. "They're all very seasoned brokers."

Among the notable transactions Barnett, Buckley and Houge handled during the last year were a $27-million lease for Bear Stearns Cos. in Century City and a $23.5-million lease for Volkswagen in Santa Monica. Safai brokered the $75-million sale of an office building at 12121 Wilshire Blvd. for Lowe Enterprises, and Weiss arranged an $8-million lease for MBDA Missile Systems in Westlake Village.

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