Human Resources and Real Estate

Parent firm acquires Colliers affiliate

West Michigan office will retain local leadership and employees.

July 8, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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Duke Suwyn walked into the Colliers International West Michigan office Thursday and said nothing had changed.

In reality, quite a bit had changed. On Wednesday, the formerly affiliated company became wholly owned by Colliers International Group.

By Thursday, there was more access to the parent company’s global network of resources, said Suwyn, chairman and CEO of Colliers International West Michigan.

Taking care of the local family was the first priority for Suwyn and the local partners, he said, while still doing what was best for the organization in the long run. The corporate ownership means the partner track for local ownership is gone, but Suwyn said he felt the path wasn’t a high priority for many associates.

Staff numbers, positions and pay levels all remain the same, Suwyn said.

“The biggest fear was staff and their concern for change,” he said. “We’ve shown clearly that when they come in, they have the same everything with the exception that they have some new benefits.

“It was important for us to take care of the family.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Suwyn said the corporate investment into the local branch is substantial. He also said each West Michigan employee was given a “tangible benefit” as a result of the transaction.

Colliers International West Michigan has offices in Grand Rapids, Holland and Kalamazoo and is the most recent whole acquisition by Colliers International Group, which has picked up affiliated firms in Indianapolis, St. Louis and Dallas in the past two years. 

Colliers International Group has been acquiring affiliated offices for 12 years, with an increased focus the past few years, said CFO John Friedrichsen.

Friedrichsen said Colliers has been selecting the strongest-performing markets to bring into its global network. The global connectivity can give clients who need to operate outside of local markets better service, Friedrichsen said.

“We’re not into fixer-uppers,” he said. “We want really well-run businesses with strong capabilities in markets we hand pick.”

Suwyn said the West Michigan real estate firm has been approached by a variety of groups and real estate firms the past several years about an acquisition such as this, but that local leadership determined the Colliers acquisition made the most sense for the future.

“What we’ve focused on is looking at how the market is maturing, and ‘how do we make sure we meet the needs of this market?’” he said.

Corporate ownership will give West Michigan Colliers employees better access to resources used across the globe in the Colliers network, and it helps give clients consistent services as the business world shrinks, Suwyn said.

Offices are corporately owned in most major markets, such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.

With the prior affiliation, Suwyn said the local office would have to piece together resources to deliver services to clients. With greater access to corporate capital markets and investor services, local clients can be served more efficiently.

Those services will begin to roll out in the next three to six months and feature in-house capabilities the office couldn’t offer before. The Grand Rapids office likely will add new employees, Suwyn said.

“Now that the company has invested heavily, we won’t need to piece them together,” he said. “We’re reaching the end of a bandwidth for service and need an intensive connection. It allows us to step up to what our clients are asking for in a way that’s more consistent across the globe than what we’ve been doing before.”

Friedrichsen said the change also will put West Michigan on the map for companies looking to acquire businesses or real estate, or start new operations.

“There is a trend of consolidation in the commercial real estate industry that is aligned with businesses expanding beyond local markets,” he said. “We are one of a handful of real estate organizations with global operations. Not every client needs to look beyond local requirements, but there’s a trend toward it, and it will continue.”

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