Top brokerage team leaves Colliers to join Cushman & Wakefield

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In a development that is sure to shake up the local real estate scene, one of Ottawa’s top office leasing teams announced this week it has left Colliers International to join rival brokerage Cushman & Wakefield.

Industry veteran Paul Bennett, a founding partner of Colliers’ Ottawa office, is changing firms along with colleagues Doug Tilley, Kimberley Hall, Brittany Wilson and Jason Tilley. The five new members of the Cushman & Wakefield team will also receive an ownership stake in the Ottawa brokerage.

Alain Desmarais, Cushman & Wakefield’s senior managing director, said Mr. Bennett and his colleagues bring a strong mix of energy and experience to their new workplace.

“They’re just consistent top producers in the market,” he said, adding the two groups had been in discussions for “a couple of years” about a potential move.

“We’re always in recruiting mode and we’re always looking for good people. We all have the same goal of growing the Ottawa business for Cushman & Wakefield. It’s going to be fun working with them.”

The addition of the five agents raises Cushman & Wakefield’s total in Ottawa to 18, making it the largest commercial real estate brokerage in the city, according OBJ’s Book of Lists.

But Mr. Desmarais said it’s the quality, not the quantity, of his new business partners that impresses him the most.

“They are very well-known in the industry for being one of the best if not the best office leasing team in Ottawa,” he said, adding he expects the team to bring most of its current customers with it. “Their clients are loyal to them because they’ve been in the business for such a long time and they’re proven performers.”

Mr. Bennett, who helped launch Colliers’ Ottawa operations in 1992, said the opportunity to once again own a stake in a brokerage was too good to turn down. He was a partner in Colliers before selling his share in 1997.

“I didn’t realize how much I missed it,” he said, adding that being a part-owner of Cushman & Wakefield’s local office will give him and his team more say over the direction of the firm as well as greater input into marketing strategies and hiring.

“We had some very good people over at Colliers, but over the years a lot of the positions were just consolidated at head office,” he explained.

Mr. Bennett said he and his group also bring a unique skill set to their jobs.

“There was a gap in the services that they were providing, and the services that we provide to local companies looking to buy and lease office space filled that gap smoothly,” Mr. Bennett said. “There was very little duplication of services here. We felt we could fit into the (company) like a glove. It was a pretty easy decision in the end for us to go.”

In some ways, he is coming full circle. Mr. Bennett began his real estate career in 1980 at A.E. LePage, Cushman & Wakefield’s predecessor. One of his co-workers then was Nathan Smith, who is now a senior vice-president and partner at the brokerage.

“It’s a pleasant coincidence, is the way I would put it,” Mr. Bennett said. “There’s a history for sure, but it’s a very, very different firm today.”

He praised Mr. Desmarais and Mr. Smith for the work they’ve done to raise the company to a position of prominence.

“They’re ready to step it up a notch,” Mr. Bennett added. “They’ve got the basics out of the way, and that’s where we come in – to join them and build the enterprise.”