All of GVA Advantis’ offices have closed
- July 29, 2009
GVA Advantis, a company with a 100-year history in Virginia’s commercial real estate market, has left the building. Julie Chase, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based firm, confirmed today that “they’ve shut everything down,” including five offices in Virginia, in response to a freeze on the company’s operational funds.
Florida-based St. Joe Co., GVA’s only secured creditor and the company’s previous owner, froze the accounts of GVA’s parent last week, leaving Advantis Holdings LLC unable to pay employees or vendors.
The Richmond office locked up on Friday after years of being one of the region’s strongest competitors. “Everyone moved out and they officially closed,”
said Jamie Thomas, GVA’s former managing director in Richmond who’s now a regional property manager for First Potomac Realty Trust.
According to a company wide e-mail sent to Advantis GVA employees that was obtained by the Daily Press newspaper and posted to its Web site, St. Joe froze the funds July 20. “This means that we no longer have control of or access to the money we would use to pay commissions, payroll, benefits, subcontractors and other critical vendors,” Robert Brumm, COO of Advantis Holdings LLC, said in the July 23 memo. “… As a result we cannot give any assurance that we can pay employees for the time you have worked since the last pay period and certainly cannot give any assurances for any future payroll.”
St. Joe took the action a week after GVA announced it was closing 6 of its 16 property brokerages in the Southeast. Two of the offices were in Virginia, in Newport News, and McLean, and the third office was in Washington D.C. GVA executives cited a drop in sales and leasing transactions as the reason for the closures, but said the firm planned to keep its profitable property management and construction operations going.
Despite such assurances, top brokers in Norfolk and other offices began to jump ship for competing firms, creating a crisis of confidence in the company’s management.
“Most of you suspected or knew we were going to have to wind down at some point in the future, but none of us anticipated this abrupt end to a company rich in history and client-focused employees,” Brumm said in the e-mail.
GVA Advantis Chairman Jeff Neal of Washington could not be reached for comment.
Neal bought the company 13 months ago in a recapitalization from a group of GVA employees who had purchased the company earlier from St. Joe. Charlie Polk, the top broker for GVA’s Richmond office, confirmed that many of that office’s accounts are moving over to a new Jones Lang LaSalle brokerage he is heading up. So far, 12 people have come over from the Richmond office, he said, including 7 brokers and 5 property managers.
Polk is running the operation from an office at Boulders Office Park in Chesterfield County. “We have a full brokerage and property management operation up and running as we speak.”
While most of GVA’s Richmond and Norfolk employees have managed to find employment at other local firms, Thomas termed GVA’s final chapter “as sad and difficult,” particularly for a company with such a long history in the state. GVA got its start as Goodman Segar Hogan, a Norfolk-based brokerage. Before the closures, GVA’s five Virginia offices (Norfolk, Richmond, McLean, Fredericksburg and Newport News) employed about 150 workers and leased and managed more than 30 million square feet of space.