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PORTLAND-Chris Nelson is leaving his post as managing director of Trammell Crow Co.’s Portland-area operations to start his own real estate development and investment company. In Nelson’s place, temporarily, is Nelson’s predecessor, John Sterik, a Portland native whom TC promoted last year to chief operating officer of its Global Services Group.

“I came back Friday to tell the office,” says Stirek, who responded to a GlobeSt.com email query during his flight back to Dallas, where TC is headquartered. “At this point I am not returning full time, but taking direct personal responsibility to fill in and find the long term solution.

Nelson, a 13-year veteran of Trammell Crow, tells GlobeSt.com the company changed dramatically during his tenure there, growing from a smaller, more entrepreneurial operation to a large, publicly-traded fee developer that can no longer offer its employees a piece of the action. “There are no hard feelings,” says Nelson. “After receiving calls from headhunters over the last year and evaluating a lot of different options, I decided it was most appropriate for me to start my own business.”

Nelson, at least initially, will be operating out of an office condo that he and his wife Barbara own in the Streetcar Lofts building, where Trammell Crow Co. opened an office earlier this year. He hasn’t decided on a name yet, but has enlisted the service of his sister and her husband, who own a branding-naming firm, and a trademark attorney. “Over the next week I’ll have a lot more definition,” says Nelson, who hopes moving in a down economy will allow him to hit the ground running when it heads back up.

“I think he will be effective in the Portland marketplace,” says Stirek, who is partners with Nelson on some residential land in Reno. “In real estate you’ve got to have relationships, capital and luck, and I think Chris will get his fair share of those because he works hard and he’s just a good person.”

Stirek is a local who grew up in Lake Oswego and built a house there a few blocks from his parents shortly before he was promoted 18 months ago. Prior to his promotion, Stirek was national director of Trammell Crow’s development and investment services division. He did the job from the Portland office, where he arrived from Seattle in 1991, then as the office’s new managing director.

Can the COO job be done from Portland? “I don’t think so,” Stirek tells GlobeSt.com. “As much as my heart would say I would love to return to Portland, at this point I am COO of this company and based here in Dallas.”

As for the transition, Stirek says he’ll be back and forth between here and Dallas, spending the end and beginning of the week in Portland and the mid-week in Dallas dealing with the rest of the country. “We wanted employees and clients to be comfortable with the transition, and I think they are,” says Stirek. “I’ll be going back and forth as long as it takes to find a good, long-term replacement and make sure the situation is stabilized.”

Having said that, Stirek said he would hope a decision could be made on a successor within 90 days. “There won’t be a formal, national headhunting process,” says Stirek. “I know a few candidates, local suspects, both internally and externally, that would make a good fit.”

Meantime, says Trammell Crow broker Dave Ellis, the company is making the right move. “Sterik has obviously been a leader of the (Portland) office for a long longtime,” says Ellis, “and he’s the right guy to step in and continue on without losing any momentum.”

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