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SANTA ANA, CA-Harold A. Ellis Jr., a co-founder of Grubb & Ellis Co. who served as the chairman and CEO of the firm until 1992, has died at the age of 77 after a battle with metastatic melanoma cancer. Ellis, who founded Grubb & Ellis in 1958 with partners Donald and John Grubb, went on in 1993 to found Ellis Partners LLC, one of Northern California’s largest commercial developers and investors, after leaving Grubb & Ellis.

Gary Hunt, interim chief executive officer of Grubb & Ellis, noted in a statement that Ellis was on hand for the company’s 50th anniversary observance last year. Hunt commented that the Grubb & Ellis co-founder’s “warmth, humor and intelligence were on full display” at the event. Hunt also noted that under the leadership of Ellis, Grubb & Ellis grew from a local brokerage based in Oakland, CA into one of the largest diversified real estate service companies in the US.

Most recently, Ellis headed Ellis Partners, where his partners included his daughter, Melinda and his son, James. The San Francisco-based company has acquired and developed more than $2 billion dollars worth of commercial real estate, including such high-profile Northern California developments as the $400 million Jack London Square expansion, a waterfront project in Oakland.

Those who knew Ellis remember him both for his many business accomplishments and as someone who was gracious and generous both personally and professionally. Marcus & Millichap co-founder George Marcus, who began his career as an investment sales broker with Grubb & Ellis in the company’s San Jose, CA office, tells GlobeSt.com, “Hal Ellis was one of the single most inspirational leaders I have ever known.”

Marcus recalls traveling from San Jose to Oakland in those days for sales meetings that Ellis would lead. “He was one of those charismatic people who made you want to follow him,” Marcus recalls. “He had the vision of building a national organization and knew that so much of the service business depends on choosing the right people and inspiring them to do better than they otherwise would.”

Both Marcus and Hessam Nadji, Marcus & Millichap managing director of research services who also began his career with Grubb & Ellis, describe Ellis as “inspirational.” Marcus and Nadji note that for the past 10 years, Ellis served as a member of the Marcus & Millichap advisory board, a group of senior-level industry executives who advise the firm on strategy and operations.

Marcus says that Ellis, in addition to offering guidance on strategy and other business matters for Marcus & Millichap, “always endorsed the company’s business model.” Ellis, Marcus says, “always told us that private client brokerage is probably the most sustainable platform in the industry, regardless of market conditions.”

Nadji recalls that Ellis encouraged him in his research efforts, agreeing to meet with Nadji and discuss those efforts even when Nadji was an entry-level worker new to the industry. “At a formative phase of my career, he had a tremendous influence on me in his vision of what could be done to improve our industry,” Nadji says. “Hal believed that brokers should offer more than transaction-related services and that’s why areas such as research were important to him.”

Nadji notes that the success that Ellis achieved at Ellis Partners after leaving Grubb & Ellis attests to his vision and versatility. “He showed an ability to shift focus from Grubb & Ellis to his new company and build it successfully, with a very good vision and a great strategy,” Nadji says.

In addition to his other accomplishments, Ellis served as chairman and chief executive officer of CataList Homes Inc., a residential real estate brokerage company based in Southern California. He served as a director of Koll Real Estate Group and was a past director of two publicly traded real estate investment trusts and a large Canadian real estate development company.

Ellis was active in a number of commercial real estate industry and community organizations, including the Melanoma Therapeutics Foundation, of which he was founder and chairman. He held the designation Counselor of Real Estate (CRE), and was a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

In addition to his children Melinda and James, Ellis is survived by his wife of 22 years, Marian; a sister, Jackie Ellis Leisz; a son, Stephen; daughters Chantal Lamberto and Jackie Lamberto; and eight grandchildren. His first wife, Virginia Roach Ellis, died in 1984. The family invites friends to join them to honor Ellis at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 14 at the Claremont Country Club, 5295 Broadway Terrace, Oakland, CA 94618.

Says Marcus, “He was a great person and we are all going to miss him.

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