Learner: Merger opportunity with Savills made sense for Studley

Joe Learner

Joe Learner

by Dan Rafter

The members of Studley’s board of directors have had a history of saying “no” to real estate firms that wanted to merge with them.

As Joe Learner, executive vice president, director and branch manager of Studley’s Chicago office, put it: Studley officials wanted to protect the company’s culture and the way that the firm does business.

But then London-based Savills plc, one of the globe’s leading real estate advisory firms, made its own merger offer. This time, Studley board members said “yes,” and an official merger is expected to close by the end of May.

What changed this time? Learner said that Savills was simply too good of a match for Studley officials to ignore.

“Throughout the whole merger, acquisition, consolidation phase of the industry, which has been going on for quite some time now, we have always stayed outside the fray,” Learner said. “We have chosen to grow organically, representing space users and preserving a culture and work environment that we all very much enjoy here. We have been approached more times than you would imagine by people who would like us to be a part of their organization. We have always respectfully declined. But when we were approached by the Savills folks, we felt like for the first time there was somebody who had the same type of feel and priorities and culture as we did.”

At the same time, Learner said, Savills wanted to expand its reach in the United States. By merging with Studley, the company now has that opportunity.

Learner is in position to understand how the merger will benefit both Studley and Savills. He’s now celebrating his 25th anniversary with Studley, after all. He knows how the real estate company works, and he understands what companies fit well with Studley and which don’t.

“We didn’t go into this process intent on selling our business,” Learner said. “Our goal was to enhance our platform for our clients. We are going to be working with people who track in the same way in which we track. Sometimes good things fall into your lap. This is a fortuitous meeting. Everyone in both organizations is energized about this.”

Savills will pay a nice price for Studley, $260 million. Once the merger is complete, Studley’s name will become Savills Studley.

After the merger, leadership at Studley will remain intact, another reason why Studley officials agreed to the deal. Mitchell Steir, Studley’s chairman and chief executive officer, will continue to serve in the same position once the merger closes. Studley president Michael Colacino will also retain his position. Both will share a seat on the Savills executive board.

The merged company will boast more than 500 locations across the globe.

“This is a great opportunity for us to build on our strong position in the market and benefit from being part of one of the leading global brands in the industry,” said Steir, in a written statement. “We are delighted that we will have a stronger platform to continue our growth with a partner that shares our commitment to exceptional client service. Studley and our clients will benefit from being part of an international firm with the ability to capitalize on cross-border opportunities in Europe and Asia.”

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