Legg Mason Inc. has tapped a former Philadelphia developer to head the real estate consulting operations of the Baltimore investment house.
The move is an effort to expand both its geographic and market focus, Legg Mason executives said yesterday.
In his new capacity, Peter M. Balitsaris will command one of the region's most well-regarded advisory and appraisal firms, with a client base of more than 100 developers, builders, government agencies and lenders stretching from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia.
"Peter brought to us a number of resources that were important to us looking forward," said Richard J. Himelfarb, a Legg Mason executive vice president. "He has large-scale development expertise, and he's also well known in Philadelphia, a key market that Legg Mason has targeted for growth."
Mr. Balitsaris replaces Robert T. Kleinpaste, a founder of the Legg Mason Realty Group Inc. who departed in April after seven years to become president of Regency Homes Corp. During his tenure, Mr. Kleinpaste boosted the firm's appraisal division and greatly expanded its research and information components.
Mr. Balitsaris' appointment comes at a time when many real estate companies, recognizing the diminished opportunities for income from traditional sources such as new building and sales, have begun exploring new avenues such as consulting. The Trammell Crow Co., for instance, formerly one of the nation's largest developers with an $8 billion commercial portfolio, has steered much of its resources toward advising others.
All kinds of firms are scrambling to incorporate a broader list of services they want to provide," said Mr. Balitsaris, 51. "I expect there will be a sorting out process, with the market telling us who the winners are. We don't pretend to be all things to all people -- we want to continue to do what we do better than anyone."
Prior to joining Legg Mason, Mr. Balitsaris worked as a senior partner and regional vice president, respectively, for Philadelphia development firms Rouse & Associates Inc. -- which in August converted to a real estate investment trust through a $900 million offering -- and DKM Properties, where he assisted in the construction of more than 4 million square feet of office and industrial space.
He also had directed the National Association of Home Builders' Home Owners Warranty program in the early 1980s.
"One of my first priorities will be to take an inventory of what we have, and look at what the various markets need," Mr. Balitsaris said. "The market focus, at least in Philadelphia, has been on the residential side, and I know we'll want to become more balanced in regards to commercial work."
The appointment is expected to have little impact on Legg Mason's commercial mortgage origination division, the nation's largest independent mortgage servicer with a portfolio in excess of $12 billion.
Since 1990, Legg Mason has acquired Latimer & Buck Inc., Dorman & Wilson, Southeast Mortgage Corp., B.F. Saul Mortgage, and others, in an attempt to bolster that segment of its business.