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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

Damien Madsen and Greg Morrison have known each other for the last 25 years, back to their college days when they sold books door to door. Both went on to work in commercial real estate but never worked together, until now.

Madsen, a local veteran of commercial development and brokerage, has joined Orlando-based Morrison Commercial Real Estate, which Morrison launched just last year. Both have more than two decades experience, yet it was those days of selling books under a brutal summer sun that forged a lifelong partnership.

“It just felt right to go into business with him,” Madsen tells Real Estate Florida of his roommate at the University of Central Florida. “It is sometimes more fun to build a business than to go to one that has already been built by someone else. Getting there is sometimes better than being there.”

Morrison, who was previously executive director of GVA Advantis in Orlando before starting his own boutique firm, says he wants to build a business that will be more responsive to clients than larger firms, in both landlord and tenant representation. He says bringing Madsen on board will be key to executing those plans.

“I trust Damien,” Morrison says, recalling how they earned roughly $1,000 a week during their book-selling days in 1983. “It’s very challenging work, but you understand what kind of work ethic and character someone has in those times.”

Madsen has completed nearly three million sf of transactions valued at $750 million throughout his career, which has included senior and executive positions with companies such as Harbert Realty Services and Flagler Development Co. He is credited with starting SouthPark Center, a nine-building office complex totaling 1.3 million sf that is recognized as one of the state’s most successful business parks.

His most recent position, as senior partner with Broad Street Partners, ended abruptly this past summer when the company’s managing director, Steve Walsh, committed suicide. A lawsuit was brought against Walsh’s estate shortly thereafter, accusing the multifamily developer of stealing millions of dollars from investors.

Madsen declines to discuss his association with the defunct firm, though he does say that the experience prompted him to get back into brokerage. He looked at a number of local companies before reconnecting with Morrison.”Based on my track record, I could have gone anywhere in town to work,” Madsen says. “I saw this as a good opportunity to build a business with Greg.”

Morrison says his firm has built a leasing portfolio of at least 1.5 million sf over the past year with several high-quality clients. Despite current economic conditions, he and Madsen are confident that their platform will be highly competitive and formidable in the Orlando market.

“I think the timing for this couldn’t be better,” Madsen says. “It’s a bad time right now, but it can’t be bad forever.”

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