Top of the heap Paramountcy: Its competitors among Baltimore's commercial real estate firms acknowledge that Colliers Pinkard moves like a "well-oiled machine."

January 11, 1998|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Stick around for three-quarters of a century and you're bound to make a few friends along the way. At 75, Colliers Pinkard has compiled a sizable and impressive list.

The Baltimore commercial real estate firm's clients and cronies -- a list that includes BT Alex. Brown Inc., IBM Corp. and Rite Aid Corp. -- also have brought success, and have helped catapult Pinkard to its position as the city's top real estate services firm.

But it's more than friendships that keeps Pinkard's star rising, company officials contend.

"If there's one thing that differentiates us, I think it's that we're incredibly focused, and we hold ourselves accountable for our ,, work," said Walter D. Pinkard Jr., the firm's president and chief executive.

"We decide we're going to do something, and we make it happen," Pinkard said. "We know what we're doing and we've got some very good, talented people."

Perhaps just as important, Colliers Pinkard was among the first locally to offer clients a wide array of services, such as corporate consulting, appraisal, property management and brokerage, a trend that has been widely duplicated in recent years.

"Being a full-service firm is very important to us today," said Martin L. Grass, Rite Aid's chairman and chief executive, who is also a next-door neighbor of Pinkard partner Richard F. "Richie" Blue Jr. "And we appreciate Pinkard's ability to negotiate deals around the country."

Pinkard last year represented Rite Aid in roughly $60 million worth of transactions.

In all, the firm has worked with the Camp Hill, Pa.-based retailer in seven states, Grass said.

Pinkard differs from other real estate firms structurally, too. Unlike most of its competitors, Pinkard pays its employees on a salary and bonus basis, rather than strictly by commission.

Even competitors acknowledge that the company, which is linked to 90 other real estate firms worldwide through the Colliers International network, is a "well-oiled machine" with scores of moving parts.

"Colliers Pinkard is Baltimore's version of the 1950s New York Yankees," said Robert A. Manekin, president of competitor Casey & Associates Inc., another long-time Baltimore commercial real estate firm. "They play hard, they dominate the industry and are respected more than liked by their competitors."

And of late, especially, the "machine" has been humming. In the past three years, for instance, Pinkard has represented virtually every major office tenant downtown searching for new space, a list that includes Legg Mason Inc., Aegon USA and law firm Piper & Marbury.

"When we began looking at what we were going to do, we turned to Wally [Pinkard]," said Raymond A. "Chip" Mason, chairman and chief executive of Legg Mason Inc., which retained Pinkard to evaluate a headquarters move to the top 17 floors of the for mer USF&G Tower.

"We just felt that with a transaction of this size, they were the most knowledgeable group. Highly professional, very thorough, and they know the buildings downtown cold," Mason added. "I thought they did an excellent job."

"They were the best people for our job," said A. B. "Buzzy" Krongard, chairman and chief executive of the former Alex. Brown Inc. and now a director and vice chairman of Alex. Brown's parent, Bankers Trust New York Corp. Krongard was referring to Pinkard's work in assisting the investment firm in its 250,000-square-foot headquarters relocation to a 30-story skyscraper at 1 South St.

"They were involved in the implementation and our analysis, and good at assembling a lot of data," Krongard added. "I have a lot of confidence in them."

Some memorable deals

Pinkard has also excelled in investment sales, and has had its name attached to practically every significant Baltimore office building sale since 1995, including the 26-story skyscraper at 100 E. Pratt St. that shattered a downtown record when it traded for $137 million in October; the $22 million deal that sold the 12-story Candler Building to a Washington investment firm in August; and the $9.5 million sale of the 25-story Blaustein Building, at 1 N. Charles St., which sold the same month.

That work, together with its other services, pushed Pinkard's transactional volume -- the total dollar amount of all deals in which the firm participated -- to over $700 million last year, generating $12 million in gross revenue. The company declined to reveal its profit.

But Pinkard can also point to its place in the community and some well-placed social connections that date back years as factors in its performance.

Its president and CEO -- a third-generation Pinkard who runs the $120 million France and Merrick foundations (Pinkard's grandfather was Robert Merrick) -- sits on the boards of the Johns Hopkins University, the Greater Baltimore Committee and the newly formed Greater Baltimore Alliance and chairs the $60 million Baltimore Community Foundation. Company principals are involved with the American Heart Association, United Way of Central Maryland and a host of other charities.

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