Real estate brokerage signing off with merger

O'Conor, Piper, Flynn won't exist after deal

March 13, 2002|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN STAFF

O'Conor, Piper & Flynn, a dominant name in Baltimore-area residential real estate for generations, will cease to exist after a merger between OPF and three other mid-Atlantic brokerages that was announced yesterday.

Beginning tomorrow, down will come the familiar blue and yellow storefront and yard signs that have dotted the region's landscape since 1984, and in their place will go the blue and white signs of the newly formed Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

NRT Inc., the nation's largest brokerage and OPF's parent since 1998, will combine the Timonium-based company with Washington's upscale Pardoe Real Estate firm; Coldwell Banker Stevens, Realtors of Vienna, Va.; and Coldwell Banker Realty Pros Ltd. of Montgomery County.

NRT completed the acquisition of the two franchised Coldwell Banker operations over the weekend. The Parsippany, N.J.-based company acquired Pardoe in 1999, a few months after it bought OPF.

Financial terms of the Coldwell Banker transactions were not disclosed.

The new company will operate with more than 4,000 sales associates in 90 office locations, stretching from the Delaware beaches and Ocean City, through Maryland, Washington and into the heart of Virginia.

For James P. O'Conor, it was a "bittersweet" end to a brokerage he has nurtured since 1960, when he started O'Conor and Flynn Co. with partner Ramsey "Bill" Flynn.

"When it's announced ... it's something," said a reflective O'Conor, who will remain as chairman of the board of the new company and retain his position as a senior vice president for NRT, which owns the real estate brands most consumers are familiar with: Century 21, Coldwell Banker and ERA, with which Pardoe and OPF were aligned.

"It's a little difficult. It's been 42 years since O'Conor and Flynn ... so for 42 years I've been helping build a company, and all of sudden that name isn't going to be here."

O'Conor said the new company's corporate headquarters would be shared between Vienna and Timonium for now, "but sometime soon - by the end of the year - there will be a corporate office in all probability located somewhere in between.

"Nobody is going to lose their job. No offices are going to be closed. All OPF offices will stay intact," he added.

Last year, the four companies generated a combined $10.2 billion in sales, which would have made it the nation's seventh-largest brokerage, according to Real Trends, an industry newsletter.

"The name will change, but it will certainly be a company that will rival Long & Foster," O'Conor said.

P. Wesley Foster Jr., president of Long & Foster, had a different view from his offices in Fairfax, Va.

"How will they measure up to us? They still don't quite do it, do they," said Foster, whose company reported $18.5 billion in sales last year, making it the nation's fourth-largest company and the largest in the mid-Atlantic area.

The discarding of such traditional and familiar names as OPF in Baltimore and Pardoe in Washington is "going to hurt" the new company, he said.

"It is going to be interesting to see it play out," Foster said. "We're not shrugging it off, but we're not all that hysterical."

Tom Stevens, who started with 11 Coldwell Banker franchises in October 1993 and expanded to 33 offices, takes over as president of the new firm. John Evans, who had been president of OPF, will be chief operating officer, and Sarah Sinnickson, a former OPF manager in Annapolis who was put in charge of Pardoe when it was taken over by NRT, will become senior vice president.

Toby Rhodes, who oversaw 19 Realty Pros offices, will remain as a consultant.

News of the sweeping reorganization within OPF began circulating among agents Monday night as senior management informed office managers. Along with NRT East Region Senior Vice President Bruce Zipf, the new management team held six meetings throughout the region yesterday to detail the changes to sales associates.

"The agents have received it very well," Stevens said yesterday. "Not to say there weren't some questions, but I think there is a general excitement in the air that this is a great move at a good time in the real estate industry."

For Bob Merbler, an agent with the OPF office in Federal Hill, the effect of the elimination of the OPF name would be "negligible."

"They'll have a big marketing campaign, and that will suggest that now we have this big national recognition name and everything will be wonderful," Merbler said.

Nancy Hubble, an OPF agent who has been selling real estate for 40 years and who once owned a brokerage, said the Coldwell Banker name carries a reputation that agents "can be very proud to be a part of.

The forming of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage is just another step in the regionalization of the independent companies NRT has purchased since it was formed in 1997 as a partnership between Cendant Corp. - a consumer-oriented conglomerate with numerous businesses such as Avis rental car and Howard Johnson - and Apollo Management LP.

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