The move by Jon Douglas Co. to merge into Coldwell Banker Residential Services' national network is part of a national trend of consolidations among real estate firms.

George Rathman, CEO of the former Prudential/Jon Douglas Co., said that the Douglas Co. merger with Coldwell Banker, announced last week, will add more ancillary services such as mortgage lending and title insurance to the realty.

"We see this merger helping us leapfrog ahead of where we were," Rathman said. He added that although the Prudential/Jon Douglas Co. was the No. 3 realty in the country, "we just didn't compare" with the services and revenue of No.1-ranked Coldwell Banker.

Beverly Hills-based Jon Douglas Co. is considered the leader in the prestige home market on the Westside and the San Fernando Valley, while Mission Viejo-based Coldwell Banker was the top brokerage in the San Gabriel Valley, said Bob Le Fever, president of Coldwell Banker Southern California.

Le Fever will now oversee the merger of Douglas's 42 Southern California offices into the Coldwell Banker network, which will create a total of 84 brokerages and 3,900 sales associates in Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County.

The Douglas Co. announced last Wednesday that it was leaving its two-year franchise agreement with Prudential Real Estate so that it could be acquired by NRT Inc., the parent company of Coldwell Banker. NRT, which also owns Century 21 and ERA realties, is the nation's largest owner and operator of residential real estate offices.

Nationwide, NRT acquired Cornish & Carey Residential Real Estate in Northern California earlier last week and CB Commercial Real Estate Services Group Inc. closed its merger with Koll Real Estate Services. The CB and Koll consolidation created the nation's largest brokerage services provider.

The Prudential/Jon Douglas Co. was the top realty in the state last year, arranging $11 billion in real estate transactions. Coldwell Banker was number two, with $7 billion in sales.

The combination of the two realties will create "quite a juggernaut" in California, said Lloyd Greif, CEO of the Los Angeles-based Greif & Co., the investment banking firm that represented the Douglas Co. in the deal.

The Jon Douglas Co. will retain its signage only in the Westside and the Valley, where it will now be known as Coldwell Banker/Jon Douglas. The Douglas Co.'s remaining 62 offices in California will be known as Coldwell Banker.

This isn't the first partnership for the Jon Douglas Co., which was founded by Realtor Jon Douglas in 1971. The Douglas Co. merged with Rathman's Prudential California Realty in Nov. 1995. Rathman, Douglas, Richard Merrill and a pension investment group were the only shareholders in the privately held Prudential/Jon Douglas Co.

Rathman said the sale was spurred both by the services Coldwell Banker could add to Douglas' operations and the fact that NRT offered them a deal they couldn't refuse.

"You can say that the owners saw this as an opportunity to exit at a handsome price," Greif said, who declined to disclose the purchase price.

Now that Jon Douglas is part of NRT, it will be part of the publicly traded stock HFS Inc., which owns NRT. Both Rathman and Douglas will be involved in Coldwell Banker in an advisory capacity, Rathman said.

Le Fever said there are no planned layoffs as a result of the merger.

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