Wilson merges with OPF-ERA Independence ends, effective today

Real estate

July 01, 1998|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN STAFF

W. H. C. Wilson & Co., a real estate firm in Roland Park that

for generations has sold homes in Baltimore's wealthiest neighborhoods, has merged its brokerage with O'Conor, Piper & Flynn-ERA, the two companies announced yesterday.

The acquisition comes after two months of negotiations between James P. O'Conor, president and chief operating officer of OPF-ERA, and Adam D. Cockey Jr., managing director and principal of Wilson & Co. The sale was approved by Wilson & Co.'s 10 stockholders and takes effect today.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but OPF-ERA will gain 20 full-time sales associates. The company's title and mortgage operations will be absorbed by OPF-ERA.

"If Jim O'Conor was in front of me, I would congratulate him on a shrewd acquisition," said William F. Cassidy, manager of the Fells Point office of Long and Foster Real Estate Inc. "For decades, [Wilson's] name has been synonymous with three neighborhoods, Roland Park, Guilford and Homeland. They were formidable name to deal with in the area."

The decision to join OPF-ERA, a Timonium company that was acquired by New Jersey-based NRT Inc. four months ago, marks the end of one of the longest-lived independent real estate companies in Baltimore.

William H. C. "Bill" Wilson founded the company in 1952, and for more than three decades it has been a fixture on Wyndhurst Avenue in Roland Park. Wilson retired in 1985.

Cockey said the average price of a home sold by his company is $225,000 to $235,000.

"We decided to look at everything that was out there; we had our sights and our eyes open," said Cockey, who added that the company had been pursued by various companies for 18 months.

"We've been a small company, but we have run ourselves as a business very efficiently. [But] we can see with the larger companies, and with the franchises, that they were coming and capturing some of that market share, and they were adding advantages to the customers and the agents.

"We knew we were not going to be able to do some of the same things."

O'Conor, who also made overtures to acquire the company last year, sees the merging of the two as a natural.

"We feel a great kinship with the company, because the cultures are very similar, and one of the challenges of today is to maintain that culture within the whole organization," O'Conor said.

O'Conor said the day-to-day operations of the company will remain the same and that Cockey will remain as manager of the Wyndhurst office. Cockey's role may be expanded in the future, O'Conor said.

The sale brings OPF-ERA back to the area; it moved its Roland Park office to Mount Washington at Stonemill in September.

O'Conor said OPF-ERA will gain dominance in some of Baltimore's most expensive neighborhoods.

Reaction to the transaction was mixed.

"As a broker, I am a little sad because I hate to see the independents go," said Gilbert D. Marsiglia, president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors and owner of a boutique firm in Lutherville.

"I don't think that having competition is a bad thing. I think the public deserves choices, and I hate to see the choices dwindle. And I hate to see a broker like Wilson be bought out."

One of W. H. C Wilson's longtime competitors -- Arthur Davis, president of Chase Fitzgerald & Co. Inc. -- was surprised by the decision.

"Adam, I think, has felt for a long time that he wanted to be part of larger company," Davis said. "It's something that appeals to him and made sense to him.

"There are those of us who feel that we're better served, our agents are better served and, frankly, the public is better served by having a choice.

"I think the existence of small companies always gives a balance to the market.

"I'm going to be sorry to see the W. H. C. Wilson sign disappear."

Pub Date: 7/01/98

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