James S. Black & Co. and the Tomlinson Real Estate group - two of the oldest and largest real estate companies in Spokane - will merge March 1, the companies announced Friday.
The merger will firmly entrench Tomlinson Black Group of Cos. as the city’s largest residential real estate company. It also is the biggest move in a series of recent consolidations that leave three large firms with the lion’s share of the Spokane home sales market.
Tomlinson Black will have at least 300 residential agents and almost 30 percent of residential property transactions. Its primary competitors will be Windermere Services Co. and The Prudential Crane Realty.
The merged company also will be a major player in commercial real estate, with 28 agents in retail, office, investment and industrial real estate. The company will “beef up” its property management division, said Dave Black, president of James S. Black.
“This moves us to a completely different level,” Black said. “It’s going to enable us to do a lot of promotional and marketing things that we haven’t been able to do in the past.”
He emphasized that the transaction was not a buyout.
The merger will unite two of Spokane’s oldest real estate families. Black’s father founded James S. Black in 1958; Tomlinson’s grandfather, C. Vern Tomlinson, founded the Tomlinson Agency in 1939.
Both companies’ complex corporate structures will face some reorganization. Four Spokane Tomlinson brokerage companies all have different ownership groups, while the Black organization includes eight divisions in three different corporations.
Property management and brokerage relations will remain based at James S. Black’s downtown building, S107 Howard. Organization of the residential offices will vary according to location, and the groups will consolidate their South Hill offices.
The two companies were first engaged in merger talks in April 1992, but the discussions didn’t result in anything concrete. When the groups began considering a merger again in late 1994, they decided to follow through with plans.
“It just made for a perfect synergistic fit,” Black said. “The marriage will really work. If I was our competitor, I’d be pretty nervous.”
Apparently, though, the competition is nonplussed.
“We’ll certainly respect their size and the number of people they have in the marketplace, but I don’t think it changes anything for us,” said Jerry Hagood, president and chief executive officer of Kiemle & Hagood, which by most measures will remain the city’s largest commercial real estate company.
“Both have been formidable competitors,” Hagood said. “But I can think of at least five other companies that also have significant shares of the market and even may exceed (Tomlinson Black) in some sectors.”
Kiemle & Hagood, Goodale & Barbieri Real Estate, R.W. Robideaux & Co., Pinnacle Realty and Alvin J. Wolff Inc. Realtors will be Tomlinson Black’s prime competitors in the commercial sector.
Goodale & Barbieri, which specializes in downtown retail and office real estate, isn’t fearful of the merger, either.
“We haven’t gone head to head with either of those two companies over the years too much, and I’m glad to see two good companies merge,” said Tom Barbieri, vice president of Goodale & Barbieri.
Barbieri said the merger would make Tomlinson Black more of a competitive menace in residential than in commercial real estate.
“I see what they did as being more driven by residential interests because of the influx of larger residential real estate companies affiliated to national networks. It’s going to be tougher and tougher for local real estate companies to make it with the national companies coming in,” Barbieri said.
Tomlinson Black’s closest competitor in the residential sector will be Windermere, a Seattle-based company that has been nationally recognized as a top seller. Windermere entered the market in 1992 and has rapidly expanded, in part by buying the former Star Brokers network.
John Becker, president of Windermere’s Eastern Washington division, refused to comment on the merger Friday afternoon.
The third largest residential broker is Prudential Crane, which represents a combination of Prudential and the former Century 21 operations in Eastern Washington.
Tomlinson’s biggest expansion in recent years came in 1988, when it merged with Coldwell Banker Feldman Person Realtors.
xxxx Big sellers Largest real estate agencies, as ranked by the Spokane Association of Realtors: 1. Tomlinson/Black 2. Windermere 3. Prudential Crane
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