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NEEDHAM, MA-In a deal said to eclipse $500 million, the owners of a vast industrial portfolio is selling off a majority of the properties to a Los Angeles-based real estate investment firm, sources have told GlobeSt.com. Equity Industrial Partners reportedly will harvest the lion’s share of 18 million sf to a partnership led by Hackman Capital Partners, say sources who indicate the transaction could happen as early as this week. Concentrated in Massachusetts, the holdings extend to Colorado, Florida, Illinois and Texas and several other states.

“That’s legit–it’s definitely happening,” one source tells GlobeSt.com, while another maintains that Calare Properties of Hudson, MA, is also involved, possibly as operating partner. The buyers have already made a deposit on the deal, sources say, and the principals of Hackman last month established an entity in Massachusetts known as the National Industrial Portfolio Borrowers LLC that is ostensibly related to the purchase.

EIP principal Bruce Levine declined comment on the transaction, as did officials at Calare Properties and James Thomson, a principal in the Boston office of Newmark Knight & Frank said to be playing a role in the negotiations. Hackman founder Michael Hackman did not respond to inquiries by press deadline, and CB Richard Ellis industrial sales specialist Jack Fraker was also unavailable. Fraker is said to have been the listing broker for the portfolio.

One unresolved question is how much of the portfolio is involved, but sources claim a substantial piece of EIP’s fiefdom in Massachusetts will change hands. Among the better known local assets owned by EIP are 625 University Ave. in Norwood, a 456,000-sf complex; 425 and 515 Woburn St. in Tewksbury, a pair of industrial assets totaling more than 750,000 sf; and 100 Simplex Dr. in Westminster, a 687,000-sf complex acquired last year from Tyco International for $14 million. Additional Massachusetts communities where EIP has properties include Bridgewater, Chicopee, Clinton, Dedham, Gardner, Randolph and Westfield. Other New England holdings include a two-building, 580,000-sf park in Merrimack, NH, that EIP paid $18.5 million for last autumn, plus the former Lego North American headquarters in Enfield, CT, secured in early 2007 for $58 million.

Outside the region, EIP has warehouse properties in Carrollton, TX; Joliet, IL; Orlando; and Fairfield and Youngstown, OH. Several of those are former Toys ‘R’ Us distribution centers that EIP acquired in 2000. Another portfolio of five distribution centers in New York and Pennsylvania was acquired from Penn Traffic out of bankruptcy for $37 million, and EIP has also expanded through new construction, adding space at the Devens Commerce Center in central Massachusetts and at its Clinton property.

Given the silence of the parties, the motivations for trading EIP’s portfolio are unclear. Founded by veteran CRE professionals Lewis Heafitz and Donald Levine, the firm has traditionally taken a hands-on, long-term approach to ownership. “It’s a big change,” concurs one broker familiar with the firm, who suggests the sale could lead to further investments. EIP has been bringing in fresh talent, including Hunter Emerson, a colleague of Bruce Levine at CB Richard Ellis. Bruce Levine, Donald Levine’s son, also recently came on board after nearly a quarter-century as a CRE broker.

Pricing for the EIP portfolio sale is said to run between $500 million and $600 million, with a more precise mark difficult to assess given the lack of specifics being unveiled. One source close to the sale would only describe it as “big and cumbersome,” and national in scope. “It is really huge,” says the source, indicating it could be closer to the larger estimate.

Hackman is a private asset-based management firm that specializes in CRE, and the firm reportedly has done deals in the past with Calare. That firm, founded in 2000, has been active in buying and repositioning Massachusetts value-added properties in recent years. Principals include William Manley, Robert Flynn, Brian Poitras and William Balz.

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