11/03/2010

CB Mulls Its Options for Replacing Vorwaller

The surprise departure of senior executive Greg Vorwaller is prompting CB Richard Ellis to weigh whether to divide up his former duties.

Vorwaller, who resigned two weeks ago to head up the global capital-markets group at rival Cushman & Wakefield, held two titles at CB: chief operating officer of capital markets and president of investment sales.

Brian Stoffers, CB's president of capital markets, has told company executives that Vorwaller's exit presents a natural opportunity to take a fresh look at the management structure in the capital-markets group, which oversees investment sales, loan brokerage and advisory work.

Vorwaller had been head of investment sales since 1999 and chief operating officer of capital markets for several years. Insiders think the odds are that his duties will be divided among two or three positions, although that is far from certain.

Stoffers has indicated to colleagues that he hopes to make a decision by yearend and that in-house and outside candidates will be considered. The company has made preliminary inquiries to industry veterans in order to scout out who might be available and interested.

However, CB hasn't retained an executive search firm, and the company said it isn't in a rush to make a decision. "We are taking a thoughtful, deliberate approach to identifying our next investment-properties leader, and are not being driven by any timeline," a spokesman said. "Our goal is to identify the right leader, and we are considering internal and external candidates."

If a change in structure is made, the most obvious choice would be to separate Vorwaller's two titles: chief operating officer, which focuses on management and internal duties in the capital-markets group, and head of investment sales, which oversees the company's far-flung network of property brokers.

Another possibility under consideration is to divide up the investment-sales responsibilities. One executive, perhaps the chief operating officer, might take over responsibility for managing the property brokers. A separate executive might be a rainmaker exclusively, soliciting business from new and existing clients, while bypassing such traditional roles as overseeing broker teams and speaking at industry conferences.

Grubb & Ellis created such a rainmaker position last month, hiring Cushman veteran Stephen Jones as an executive managing director and head of business development.

A new chief operating officer could come from inside or outside the company. But CB would likely turn to its bench of senior executives to appoint either an investment-sales chief or a rainmaker. Among the possible candidates:

*Senior managing director Spencer Levy, who oversees sales brokers in the Eastern U.S. and heads CB's national distressed-assets advisory and sales team.

*Senior managing director Peter Donovan, who runs CB's multi-family practice and the unit that originates Fannie Mae loans.

*Executive managing director John Frager, who returned to CB in September to oversee the brokerage of office properties after an eight-year stint as Cassidy Turley BRE's chief executive.

*Managing director Ken Pearson, who runs the REO asset-management division, which includes overseeing the contract to manage and sell foreclosed properties controlled by the FDIC.

CB was the nation's most active broker of large commercial properties last year, according to Real Estate Alert's Deal Database, which tracks trades of $25 million and up. The company handled $4.4 billion of transactions.

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