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IRVINE, CA-Guardian Management, the Portland, OR-based company that just closed on the franchise rights for Sperry Van Ness in Southern California, Arizona and Oregon says it has lured Robert Osbrink, the former EVP and chairman of transaction services for Grubb & Ellis to lead and expand the eight-office brokerage operation as its president and also a principal in the franchise. Osbrink also will sit on SVN’s national board of advisers and be a member of Guardian’s executive management team, according to Guardian president Tom Brenneke, who will serve as CEO of the franchise and fellow member of the SVN board of advisers.

As is, Guardian Management’s SVN franchise includes seven offices in SoCal and one in Phoenix that are operating with approximately 200 brokers. Brenneke says Osbrink will play a key role in the company’s effort “to build on the existing Sperry Van Ness market share in Southern California and Arizona while expanding [its] presence in Oregon and other key US markets.”

“It’s different [from what I was doing at G&E] from the standpoint that I’m a principal here; the fact that I could get involved in a number of different ways was intriguing,” Osbrink tells GlobeSt.com. “My primary focus will be to look internally at what we have right now, stabilize the core business and then look at growth opportunities.”In July, when GlobeSt.com first reported on the acquisition, Guardian Management was exclusively an owner and manager of 130 apartment properties in seven states that heretofore only provided brokerage services to its apartment clients, and only on a limited basis. The acquisition was about diversification, Brenneke told GlobeSt.com.

“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 told GlobeSt.com. “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.”

Brenneke said the business combination will help Guardian grow its brokerage business, 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 said he will expand the leasing departments within the SVN offices.

“Basically right now we are all multifamily from a property management standpoint, but with this we will be expanding into commercial,” he said. “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 said. “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%.

Osbrink’s position at G&E is not being filled, a company spokesperson told GlobeSt.com in June. Osbrink joined that company in 1988 and held numerous local and regional management roles during his 20 years at Grubb & Ellis. He was named EVP and president of transaction services in 2004. In May 2008, Osbrink was named chairman of transaction services and the title of president was transferred to company COO Jack Van Berkel. Also that month, Greg Coxon was named president of transaction services for the Western region.

The deal between Osbrink and Guardian Management took about three weeks to hammer out. “When it seems to work for all parties then it doesn’t take a long time,” Osbrink says.

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