There’s a quiet consistency about Trammell Crow Co. In many respects, the Dallas-based services firm seems to fly under the radar screen without thirsting for publicity. The company is to that degree like the man at its helm, chairman and CEO Robert Sulentic. But while Sulentic himself eschews the spotlight, the firm’s steady growth is a story worth telling, and it was most recently manifested in (but not limited to) the expansion of its debt and equity group in Manhattan. Included in the firm’s broader expansion strategies are more international growth and a further push into its blossoming outsourcing business. The quiet consistency that is Trammell Crow was reflected as well in its recent earnings call, in which Sulentic revealed that first-half revenues hit $392.5 million, up from $340.1 million for the first six months of ’04. In a recent exclusive interview, Sulentic talked about the growth the company has enjoyed. But he shed less light on the rumors that have circulated for the past year or so–and seem to be flaring up again if a recent London news piece is to be believed–that a merger might be in the offing. Let’s deal with the rumors first. We’ve been hearing for about a year now that Trammell is in play, and most often your name is linked to CBRE. Any truth to it?

Sulentic: We don’t comment on rumors. But it’s always a possibility, correct?

Sulentic: Since we’ve been a public company, we’ve heard rumors, sometimes we’re the subject of them and sometimes others in our sector are. No matter the nature of the rumor, we don’t comment. Let’s move to more solid ground, such as the debt and equity expansion in Manhattan. How does that figure into an overall strategy?

Sulentic: We now have a very strong team headed by Richard Bernstein, and he’s brought on Steve Pearlman, who has this capability in the debt and structured-finance area, which of course has demand in the marketplace. And he’s also brought on Jose Alvarez to lead the hospitality part of that practice. So there are two things taking place here. First is the general growth of our brokerage business, and the second is a strong leader in New York who’s adding capability. So I’m thrilled with what’s happening in New York. With that as a starting point, talk to me about your internal growth.

Sulentic: Over the past two years we grew our brokerage staff by about 15%. This year we expect to grow the headcount by 5% or 10%. New York is one of the markets we’ve targeted; the Bay Area is another, as is Chicago. And we expect to see growth in all of those areas as well as others. In capital markets alone, we’re adding those capabilities around the system. You’re also growing your outsourcing capabilities. How does that figure into your international expansion?

Sulentic: We’re focused on that as our main area of international growth. The most recent example is the assignment we landed with EDS that will have us serving them in approximately 20 countries. What we aren’t doing is going out to random locations around the globe and opening new full-service offices. While we have those in the US, internationally we serve our customers in two ways. We put dedicated people on accounts who are professionals in doing what those customers need, and we have alliances—and a couple of prominent alliances—with extremely strong property companies–Savills in Europe and Asia and JJ Barnicke in Canada.

It’s easy to talk about dots on the globe, but if you have three brokers in a remote country, and you need to provide property-management services there, you don’t exactly have what the customer needs. You must populate your capability with someone who can serve that demand. Sometimes the best way to do that is to use captive people, and sometimes it’s best to go outside and get someone who can provide that service. Local presence doesn’t always equate to local expertise. Lots of these thrown-together global arrangements don’t result in cultures syncing up or expertise in what the customer needs. Are you suggesting that the international road is paved with firms that haven’t done it properly?

Sulentic: I’m not suggesting anyone’s done it improperly. What I’m suggesting is that flags in cities around the world doesn’t equate to filling customer need. Are you averse to growing in Europe outside of the outsourcing strategy?

Sulentic: No. We have clients based there, and we’re looking at other investments. We’re not averse to it, we’re just not trying to plant flags all over the world. What other investments are you looking at?

Sulentic: We doubled our investment in Savills because we knew them extremely well and we already owned 10%. It made sense. We’ll make other investments in places where we don’t have major involvement only if we have some level of insight to a specific circumstance, some level of activity and some level of history. We’ll invest where we have people with expertise on the ground and where we see other opportunities. So map out for us your specific areas of growth for the next year.

Sulentic: We’ve staked out several areas. We’re trying to grow our business in virtually everything we do, but there are particular areas of focus. First is outsourcing, and we’re currently adding new business and expanding with current clients. Next is continuing to grow our base of brokers. In addition to what we’ve already added, we expect it to grow by as much as 10% by year end. We’ll also be focused on growing our already substantial healthcare business. Finally there are our development and investment funds and capital programs. First is the ING/Clarion Industrial program, which is targeting half a billion dollars in new product, and the other is Partners Health Trust, a medical office-building development-and-acquisition fund that we’ve done with Morgan Stanley as the advisor. That also is targeting a half a billion dollars in product. Those are our four big growth initiatives. But the most important thing we’re doing to grow and sustain our business is servicing our customers. So, what do your growth prospects look like for next year?

Sulentic: We’ve targeted earnings for this year of $1.40 to a $1.50 per share. It’s reasonable to target growth next year in line with our long-term projection of 20%.

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