Newmark, Grubb Knight Frank… But What About Ellis: A BGC Mystery


Grubb & Ellis was purchased out of bankruptcy by BGC Partners last week and merged with another brokerage firm, Newmark (NMRK) Knight Frank. The integrated entity, which many industry experts say will become a new power in the real estate services industry, is being called Newmark Grubb Knight Frank.

Although from a branding standpoint brokers at Grubb & Ellis said they appreciate BGC’s decision to retain some portion of the company’s identity in the new moniker, they claim it is an ode to a partner long forgotten.

hal ellis Newmark, Grubb Knight Frank... But What About Ellis: A BGC Mystery
Hal Ellis. (Courtesy San Francisco Chronicle)

Of the firm’s two founders, it was Hal Ellis, and not Bill Grubb, who grew into a legend at the firm, said several brokers who remember the firm’s earlier years. Mr. Ellis, who is not related to the Ellis at rival CB Richard Ellis, ran Grubb & Ellis for decades and expanded it into the country’s leading brokerage company by the early 1980s, when he made it the first services firm to go public. In the early 1990s he left and moved into development in the San Francisco Bay Area, building an empire of commercial holdings and becoming one of the best-known West Coast developers and investors. Mr. Ellis passed away in 2009, but his children continue to run his real estate business.

So what about Mr. Grubb, whose name and not Mr. Ellis’s is all that remains to signify the firm as a component in BGC’s growing services empire?

“Was Grubb even a real person?” one top Grubb & Ellis broker joked.

“LOL only knew hal ellis,” another top executive involved in the acquisition deal wrote in an email. “Never heard of a grubb.”

If anyone has information with regards to whose decision it was to include Grubb in the new name, or whether Ellis’ descendants had a seat at the bargaining table, let us know in the comment section.