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PORTLAND, OR- Guardian Management, a locally based owner and manager of 130 multifamily properties in seven states has acquired the franchise rights for the Sperry Van Ness brand in Southern California, Arizona and Oregon. The deal includes eight previously corporate-run offices. Guardian’s owner Tom Brenneke, speaking from Europe this morning, tells GlobeSt.com the acquisition is part of his plan to diversify the company’s operations. He declined to disclose the terms of the transaction, which includes seven offices in SoCal and one in Phoenix that are operating with 190 brokers.

“Our play is essentially to take the time here with the market slow, while the velocity is slow, to improve systems and procedures and get some recruiting done; we are going to do a lot of recruiting,” Brenneke says. “We are going to hire the best talent we can at all levels for all property types and breathe new life into this thing and really energize it.”

Guardian will operate its new commercial real estate offices as an affiliate company under the Sperry Van Ness brand. Brenneke says he will immediately begin to build upon the existing Sperry Van Ness presence in Oregon and also will look to develop the Sperry Van Ness organization in Arizona, expanding outside the Phoenix market to include Tucson.

Brenneke says the business combination will help Guardian grow its brokerage business – it has been offering clients the service only on a limited basis heretofore — which will in turn grow the property management business. As part of the plan to be a more of a one-stop shop, in terms of property management, Brenneke says he will beef up the leasing talent within the SVN offices he now controls.

“Basically right now we are all multifamily from a property management standpoint, but with this we will be expanding into commercial,” he says. “We’ve got the property management infrastructure already in place, including the software, and commercial property management is frankly a whole lot more straight forward than residential. As part of that, we will add more leasing talent to our SVN offices.”

Rand Sperry and Mark Van Ness established Sperry Van Ness in 1987. The SVN brand has grown rapidly in recent years – it now boats 1,000 brokers in 150 markets nationwide — by luring high-producing brokers with higher splits that can be achieved more quickly than at some of the other, larger brokerage houses.”The SVN system tends to attract good seasoned veterans,” Brenneke says. “SVN’s target property market is B quality in terms of price range, which keeps us from going head-to-head with the likes of CB Richard Ellis. With the average transaction size at SVN between $4 million and $5 million we’re one notch below that — and it’s a really good niche.”

When the assets came to market earlier this year, CEO Mark Van Ness told GlobeSt.com that the company had been planning to “go completely to the franchise model” as a more efficient way to expand and operate its business. “Our long-term intent always was to convert the company completely to a franchise model,” he said. “We have come to realize that it is inefficient for us to try to run two different businesses with the same staff,” Van Ness tells GlobeSt.com. “We realized that it’s time to make a full commitment to the franchise business.”

Brenneke started at Guardian management 25 years ago and bought it in 2001. It was at that point that the company began acquiring properties in addition to managing them for third parties. It also began partnering with wealthy individuals and institutions, playing the part of the expertise partner by taking a minority stake and acting as the fee manager of the fee manager of the property. The 400-person company now invests on behalf of it and 100 high-net-worth individuals, as well as five institutional investors, and has a portfolio of nearly 12,000 apartments units valued at $600 million, of which it owns about 50%.

The offer to acquire SVN’s corporate offices and related franchise rights came to Brenneke through JMP Securities, the San Francisco-based investment bank that SVN retained earlier this year to market the offices and related franchise rights for sale so it can focus on growing the franchise into new markets without the distraction of also trying to operate existing individual offices.

“JMP came to us because we’ve had a prior relationship with them and they knew we were looking to move into California and diversify our product type, generate additional fee revenue and expand our management operation,” Brenneke says. “It fit well.”

Brenneke, who has been working to close the deal for three months, says he got the sense that JMP shopped the offering fairly quietly and that there were probably four or five serious contenders. “SVN wanted to find the right strategic partner and they talked with a number of different types of groups, including TIC groups,” he says. “We were apparently a pretty good match.”

Sperry and Van Ness backed that up in a prepared statement released Tuesday morning. “When we began looking for a strategic franchisee for our corporate offices, we knew it had to be just the right partner…,” they stated. “Guardian’s presence and reputation on the West Coast, strong management team and its multifamily offerings will reinforce and strengthen our brand and company significantly.”

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