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DALLAS-One of the nation’s leading multifamily teams has exited Grubb & Ellis Co. to lead a Cushman & Wakefield Inc. expansion in Texas as it ushers into town an operation with practically the same name as an 11-year-old Dallas stalwart.

Don Ostroff and Will Balthrope, who resigned yesterday, were named directors in the Dallas office for the Apartment Group, a Cushman & Wakefield company. C&W is now waiting to see if use of the name in Texas is going to be challenged by the Apartment Group, a Dallas-based brokerage firm led by Jeff Price.

Price tells GlobeSt.com that he learned of the C&W plan when he returned from lunch Thursday and clearly hadn’t had time to decide a course of action. “This came as a shock to me,” he says.

In January 2001, C&W acquired the 20-year-old Apartment Group, a 16-broker, Atlanta-based firm with a footprint in eight Southeastern states. Through the years, there has been an unwritten reciprocal agreement between the two Apartment Groups that they would notify each other when doing business in each other’s territory, according to Price.

A C&W spokesman in New York City tells GlobeSt.com that “this is a non-story. The name has been properly reserved and we have not been challenged on it. Beyond that, there is nothing to say.”

Price says he will be talking to “a lot of people. I need to understand the ramifications.” Then, he says, he will be better prepared to decide what, if anything, he intends to do about the near duplicate name.

One source says it’s possible under Texas law for both to do business with the same moniker, particularly if C&W does in the Lone Star State what it has been doing elsewhere since the Atlanta acquisition–doing business as “The Apartment Group, a Cushman & Wakefield Company.” The extra words make all the difference from a legal standpoint, the source believes.

Meanwhile, Grubb & Ellis’ Jeff Deweese, executive vice president and managing director, is still trying to decide what he’s going to do now that his institutional-business “Dream Team” has joined the competitor’s camp. “There’s no question that we hated to see them go,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “They were offered an extraordinary opportunity to help Cushman & Wakefield start that business. Sometimes, a great opportunity comes along and you just have to shake the guy’s hand and say ‘we hate to see you go.’”

The team’s exit came immediately after Deweese was told they accepted the C&W offer. Balthrope discloses the team’s exit strategy is that it will close 12 deals for 3,500 units, valued at $150 million, now in escrow under the G&E banner.

Ostroff, with 20 years’ experience, was a vice president with 3 1/2 years at G&E; Balthrope, an 18-year professional with an associate’s title, spent 2 1/2 years in Dallas and several in San Antonio with the firm. Ostroff and Balthrope started teaming two years ago with zero listings and today have 35 valued at $400 million. Their sudden rise to fame on the institutional circuit had the nationals courting them on a regular basis and Deweese was aware of that. Their sales volume in two years topped $300 million, all properties in Texas metropolises.

“We feel fortunate that the things we’ve done in the last two years have resulted in people wanting us,” Balthrope says, confiding that they took their two-year analyst and junior broker, John Irish, with them to C&W.

“We decided this would be a good opportunity,” Ostroff tells GlobeSt.com. “And, it was time to make a move.” As for the sudden exit, Ostroff says “you just pick a day and go,” otherwise the unfinished deals could push out the date indefinitely. In fact, the team closed two sales three days ago and have another wrapping up Monday.

That doesn’t mean the exit came without great thought. Not only did Deweese get high praise from Ostroff and Balthrope, but so did G&E. “And,” stresses Balthrope, “we’re going to miss the relationships there.”

The immediate plan calls for the Dallas-based team to set up an office in Houston as they interview multifamily brokers for the launch. Before the year ends, they hope to have “one or two” brokers hired for Houston, an equal number for the San Antonio-Austin market and more in Dallas. Building a cohesive statewide team is the plan going forward.

C&W’s Dallas director, Liz Trocchio, said in a prepared statement that the team’s hiring is “a giant step…It combines talent with resources and takes both the team and the Dallas office to the next level.

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