GE, Ford among suitors to buy Coldwell Banker

February 14, 1993|By Lornet Turnbull | Lornet Turnbull,Knight-Ridder News Service

General Electric, Ford Motor Co. and a pair of overseas companies are said to be among a whittled-down group of likely suitors for Coldwell Banker Real Estate.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. announced last year that it will sell Coldwell Banker, the real estate arm it has owned for about 12 years, as part of a restructuring plan to focus on its retail business.

Sears is believed to be asking between $1 billion and $1.5 billion, and a deal is expected within a few weeks.

Industry sources say Goldman-Sachs, the investment banker handling the transaction, originally received 40 "legitimate requests" from potential buyers. And among that group was General Motors Acceptance Corp., the financing arm of General Motors.

The wide field of prospects was subsequently trimmed to half a dozen, which, in addition to GE, Ford and the two overseas groups, includes Metropolitan Insurance and Primerica.

"I think no matter who buys them, the continuity of the Coldwell Banker organization will remain," said Charles M. Dahlheimer, a consultant with the North American Consulting Group Inc., which follows the real estate industry.

"There are two concerns: One would be if someone buys it, will they continue the double-breasted approach to owning some and franchising, or will they sell off all the owned-and-operated branches?"

If the deal closes with an overseas buyer, it will be the first substantial transaction between a U.S. real estate company and a foreign buyer other than a Canadian, Mr. Dahlheimer said.

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