The acquisition of Columbia’s largest real estate firm, Russell & Jeffcoat, by the parent company of Coldwell Banker United of Columbia was anything but hostile, officials in both companies said Tuesday.
When the merger’s announcement was made in a morning meeting attended by employees of both Russell & Jeffcoat and Coldwell Banker United, many of them stood and applauded, according to some in attendance.
New Jersey-based NRT LLC purchased the 51-year-old Russell & Jeffcoat Real Estate firm for an undisclosed price. The move gives NRT greater headway into the Columbia market and a stronger hand in the growing regional real estate market.
Major brokerages have been pursuing a purchase of Russell & Jeffcoat for years, according to Ron Roe, the firm’s former president and CEO. “When NRT approached us, it was absolutely the best fit for our company,” Roe said. “Their culture is very similar to ours.”
The main reason Russell & Jeffcoat decided to accept NRT’s purchase offer is the services the company can bring to both Russell & Jeffcoat’s real estate agents and customers, he said. The economy is global in 2016 and so are real estate sales and purchases, Roe said.
“Now, when somebody searches Columbia (listings), they’re going to find us, which before, they didn’t know our name. ... The No. 1 (real estate) company in the Midlands is now with the No. 1 (residential real estate) company in America. That benefits consumers.”
NRT brokerage last year acquired Coldwell Banker United’s operations in South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida and Texas. Coldwell Banker United has 200 sales associates and four offices in Columbia. The company also has 200 sales associates in Charleston and Aiken.
Russell & Jeffcoat has 400 sales associates and 12 offices in Columbia.
The company said it does not plan to close any offices or cut any staff in the merger. The entities’ names will remain the same for now, sales closings will continue as usual and customers should not see in any differences in operations, company officials said.
Russell & Jeffcoat and Coldwell Banker United in Columbia last year had more than $1 billion in sales combined, which far outdistances the sales totals for all other competitors in the Midlands’ combined, according to sales figures provided by NRT.
As the regional senior vice president in the combined company, Roe will focus on the company’s combined Columbia operations.
“NRT has been interested in the Carolinas for many years,” said Pauline Bennett, the new president of NRT Carolinas. “This opportunity to grow in the Midlands really enables us to fill in our service coverage from Maine to Florida. So, it’s been a key position for us to grow our presence in the Carolinas.”
In the past, South Carolina was overlooked by national firms because the state’s major markets weren’t large enough to justify their interest, said Mark Vitner, Wells Fargo senior economist in Charlotte.
Now, South Carolina is seeing stronger growth in most of its major metropolitan areas, he said. The state has also made big headlines across the country, with big economic development announcements from Volvo, Mercedes and ongoing expansions at Boeing and BMW, Vitner noted.
“I would imagine their interest in partners with a large and successful real estate firm in South Carolina is aimed at getting their firm a share of the growth going on the state,” Vitner said in an e-mail.
Bob Russell, the founder of Russell & Jeffcoat who died last year in a plane crash, had some years ago expressed his intent to eventually sell the company to a national brokerage and retire to his home in the mountains, Roe said.
After Russell’s death, it was logical for senior leaders to give thought to what would ultimately carry their business forward, Bennett said. “This was not because of desperation or need so much as it was positioning, strength and growth – and securing the future.”
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398
Headquarters: Madison, N.J.
2015 sales volume: $164.9 billion
Sales associates: 47,000
NRT is a subsidiary of Realogy Holdings Corp., a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange (RLGY).
Sources: NRT LLC, bloomberg.com
About Russell & Jeffcoat
2015 sales volume: $617 million
Sales associates: 400
Sources: NRT LLC, The State archives, russellandjeffcoat.com