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DALLAS-In a surprise move for the market, Bradford Cos. has hired a leading veteran to oversee a push to lease, manage and invest in office properties. To seal the behind-the-scenes talk, Bernard Deaton has been named executive vice president and managing partner.

Deaton, who starts today, has exited a four-year post as executive vice president and managing director of the Central division for Houston-based PM Realty Group. “Bernard has made significant contributions to PM Realty Group’s growth in Dallas and leaves a very competent and seasoned management team, which will assume his various responsibilities under the leadership of Doug Little in our corporate office,” PM Realty’s president and CEO Rick Kirk says in a prepared statement for GlobeSt.com. “We wish Bernard well as he pursues new opportunities.”

Deaton’s task is to build a team to lease and manage office properties and scout for investments for Bradford, which has three million sf of third-party assignments in a 12-million-sf office, flex and industrial portfolio. Kevin J. Santaularia, Bradford’s president and CEO, tells GlobeSt.com that he expects to close on his first office purchase–in Downtown Fort Worth–within 60 days. In the six years since Santaularia’s owned the company, he’s acquired two million sf of industrial product and developed 900,000 sf in the metroplex.

Santaularia says he’d been looking for an office “player-coach” for the company, now up to 65 professionals. What is a certainty is the six-member office group is going to increase in size with Deaton at the helm and Santaularia’s plan to buy properties with joint venture partners. “It will put us in a mix with the Streams and Capstars to put us in a position to compete for class A business that is represented by a very small cluster of firms and creates conflicts of interest,” he says.

Deaton, with 30 years in the industry, says Santaularia and Bradford COO Al Horstmann offered a business plan “that intrigued me to get more involved in business investments and more production opportunities to go back to my roots, which is marketing and leasing.” Deaton, in fact, will once again office at 9400 NCX, the former headquarters for the now-defunct Fults Co., which he co-founded in 1981 with the late Jerry Fults.

“Bradford has a good team in place,” Deaton says. “I’m going to take the existing team and see how we can strategically go forward in adding and growing the base of relationships–on the development, investment and leasing side.”

Deaton’s peers first learned of the affiliation change at Tuesday’s RealShare Dallas. “People who know me were excited about me making the move to a company the quality of Bradford and also surprised,” he says. “It was all very positive.”

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