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[IMGCAP(1)]IRVINE, CA-The changing fortunes of the commercial real estate industry produced two strategic moves in Southern California Friday morning as Irvine-based Sperry Van Ness International launched a new division called Sperry Van Ness/Better Capital Partners and, separately, Portland, OR-based Guardian Management said it would close five of its Sperry Van Ness-Southern California offices and consolidate them into the company’s West Los Angeles office. Guardian became the operator of the SVN Southern California offices last year when it purchased eight former corporate offices of Sperry Van Ness in Southern California and Arizona, as well as the development rights to expand the SVN franchise in Oregon.

Sperry Van Ness/Better Capital Partners will open for business on Monday and will be led by investment banker Eric H. Better, formerly a vice president with Los Angeles based George Smith Partners Inc., who will serve as president and principal of the new division. The new division will offer “a full capital stack which includes debt, equity and joint ventures for all forms of commercial real estate properties nationwide,” the company says.

Kevin Maggiacomo, president of Sperry Van Ness International, said in a statement that the new unit is designed to create “a national financing platform” that will provide capital services for SVN brokers and their clients “so that more deals can be closed.” In addition to Better, the new unit will include five other members, with at least five more to be added within the next 60 days.

[IMGCAP(2)]In the other SVN-related move today, Guardian says that its move will replace physical locations with a “virtual brokerage concept.” The company said that in addition to consolidating six Sperry Van Ness-Southern California offices into its West Los Angeles location, it has already phased out two small Los Angeles-area offices and a Scottsdale, AZ office.

A statement from Guardian president Tom Brenneke says that the Portland, OR-based company, which operates the Sperry Van Ness-Southern California offices through a subsidiary, has spent several months evaluating franchise operations and “concluded that we need to reduce the dependence on bricks and mortar, while retaining a base office in each of our major markets.”

After the final consolidation, Guardian’s subsidiary will have a single Sperry Van Ness office (West Los Angeles) serving the Southern California region and one office, in Phoenix, serving its Arizona franchise region. Other Sperry Van Ness-Southern California brokers will work as satellite brokers, which is “a concept tested initially among the franchise’s top-performing brokers,” the company says.

Brenneke called the new arrangement “a leaner structure” and said it is a result of technology that “is radically changing the traditional brokerage business model.” Guardian, which also has a multifamily management portfolio of more than 130 properties totaling 12,000 units in seven states, bought the eight former Sperry Van Ness corporate offices in Southern California and Arizona last year after Irvine-based SVN decided that it would divest its ownership of the corporate locations and focus solely on operating as a franchiser.

Irvine-based Sperry Van Ness, founded in 1987, operates in more than 150 offices with more than 1,000 brokers.

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