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Q&A with Jeff Ellerman: Why Did Top Broker From Staubach Jump Ship?

It’s not uncommon for top brokers to move around in this industry, but the ink was barely dry on the Jones Lang LaSalle/Staubach merger papers when one of Staubach’s top brokers, Jeff Ellerman, quit for greener pastures with CB Richard Ellis.

In his 25-year career in tenant representation, Ellerman has brokered more than 20 million sq. ft. of leases valued at over $6 billion. During his tenure at Staubach spanning 10 years, the deals he brokered accounted for more of the top 25 office leases in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex than any other professional.

That makes Ellerman a major player, and we wanted to know why he made the move.

NREI: The Jones Lang/Staubach merger is only a few weeks old, so why are you leaving?

Ellerman: I was at Staubach for the last 10 years, and it was the best 10 years of my career. I loved it, we were very successful and it was a great platform.

I think there were a lot of very strong attributes of the Staubach Co. in Dallas, but with the merger with JLL I think Staubach may have lost a little of its uniqueness. Roger [company founder and NFL Hall of Famer Roger Staubach] is just one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met, and our name in Dallas was gold. He was able to attract and retain the best talent, and our market share was huge on the large transactions.

I know now given the merger and the name going away, it’s kind of a new playing field. I know a lot of Staubach’s competitors in Dallas are just licking their chops and thinking possibly a paradigm shift has occurred, and there is a great opportunity to increase market share and neutralize the impact that Staubach might have had in the past on the market. Market share is everything, and it’s very hard to recruit. If there is a shift, then they will be all over it.

NREI: You watched CB Richard Ellis acquire Trammell Crow Co. in 2006. What did you learn from that experience?

Ellerman: When that transaction occurred, the way I looked at it in Dallas was that it was a great deal for CB Richard Ellis, and it took one more competitor out of the market for me as a broker competing for large assignments. What happens when companies merge is that they get good talent and actually make more money.

NREI: Were you ready to make the move prior to the Jones Lang LaSalle merger?

Ellerman: This whole situation with CB Richard Ellis was the right place, right time. My business has been the local high-margin, one-off assignment. The transactions I’m chasing every day are the bigger Dallas assignments, and our market share is big and we have a lot of credibility and experience in Dallas.

I will say that our business is changing everywhere. Every year there is an erosion of those potential transactions as some of those accounts go to national accounts. As a broker at Staubach, I don’t care how good I was in Dallas, I wasn’t going to represent AT&T because CB Richard Ellis did. I have noticed that over the last four or five years CB Richard Ellis has made itself known as a great company, and it does a lot of things right and its market share has grown considerably.

With the big corporate business that I pursue, the larger national brokerages are everywhere. It’s important to align yourself with the leading player in the market, and I think that’s CB Richard Ellis.

NREI: But both CB Richard Ellis and Jones Lang have similar global platforms, don’t they?

Ellerman: I love my old colleagues at the Staubach Co. and I think extremely highly of them. I don’t know enough about the culture at Jones Lang LaSalle to be able to give you a difference. I can say CB Richard Ellis was the right place at the right time, and I had a great opportunity. I felt the platform was wide open and I’m real excited about it.

NREI: What is the upside and downside of mergers like this?

Ellerman: In Dallas, it’s been extremely hard to compete in the office tenant rep business against the Staubach Co. It was a great culture. Roger is still going to be there, and a lot of what Jones Lang LaSalle does is going to look like Staubach, but for me this was just a really good opportunity.

I believe that CB Richard Ellis is going to aggressively pursue other players in the market, and some might be coming from Staubach and some from other places. CB Richard Ellis is a very proactive player. The company was very diligent when it pursued me and I’m sure that will continue.

NREI: Are you viewing this as a new beginning?

Ellerman: I like to challenge myself. I’m 49 years old, I’ve been doing this in Dallas for 25 years and this is a new opportunity for me. I’ve got a lot of great existing clients, but you have to really want to do this type of move because it’s a hassle. To move companies is a lot of “new.”

NREI: How much will your role differ now?

Ellerman: My role will be exactly the same. I will say that CB Richard Ellis offers a full platform with a lot of services that I can offer my clients. There are a lot of relationships I have that historically I have not been able to do business with because it wasn’t part of our platform.

In my position, I’m in the business of trying to convert existing and future relationships into business and into opportunities. At Staubach, I threw out a couple of nets. But now with CB Richard Ellis, I’m throwing out a lot of nets. To me that’s exciting.

NREI: How difficult was it to leave Staubach after 10 years?

Ellerman: Let me say again that I think the world of my colleagues over there. When I resigned from Roger, I told him I never thought I would be doing this. Things happen and I was at the right place at the right time. But I think things will continue to go on as normal at Staubach and Jones Lang LaSalle, and I wish them the very best.

NREI: How did Roger take the news?

Ellerman: He was, and is, always the consummate professional. He wished me the best, and I wished him the best.

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