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Oak Park's two biggest real estate offices are merging into one business, doubling its share of the market compared to the next closest competitor.
Chicago-based Baird & Warner — the largest independent real estate company in the state, which has been around since 1855 — announced on Friday it is acquiring F.C. Pilgrim & Co., an Oak Park-based real estate office, established in 1893.
Baird first approached Pilgrim a few months back and the deal to acquire Pilgrim was signed on June 23. Both sides declined to discuss the particulars of the cash deal.
The combination would give the local Baird office a 20 percent share of the local real estate market, more than twice as much as the next closest competitor.
Michael O'Neill, managing broker for Pilgrim, said he feels sentimental about seeing the 100-year-old-plus Pilgrim name go away, but thinks the move is the best thing for both companies.
"It's always sad to lose something you feel is almost part of the fabric of the community," said O'Neill, who will act as Baird & Warner's director of community initiatives. "That's unfortunate, but I really look forward to the positive aspect of remaining with an independent, family-owned company and remaining local."
The combined office will have about 90 real estate agents, joining a company that has 25 locations in Illinois, with more than 1,500 brokers. The two companies will temporarily move into the Baird & Warner office at 805 Lake St. in Oak Park. At the same time, they'll set about building out Pilgrim's office at 1037 Chicago Ave., with plans to eventually set up shop there this fall, according to Stephen Baird, president and CEO of Baird & Warner.
Baird said it's too early to say whether there will be any layoffs as a result of the acquisition though he said there is some duplication in terms of accounting and other "backroom" duties. Pilgrim also owns an insurance agency and property management company, which the company plans to keep running in the near future.
Baird is excited to see the two companies join forces and pool their resources.
"They're a great company, we're a great company; we just think the combination is going to be very dynamic," he said.
John O'Neill, chairman of Pilgrim, thinks combining resources will help strengthen the two companies in a struggling market. It's upsetting to see the Pilgrim name going away after more than 100 years, he said, though it will continue to exist through their insurance and property management companies.
"I feel bad, but I feel that good things are coming out of it, the yin and the yang," he said. "I think it was the right thing to do."
With the acquisition of Pilgrim, Rich Gloor Jr. believes he'll have the longest-standing local real estate office, Better Homes and Gardens/Gloor Realty, in existence for 60 years. He said it's harder for the independents to continue on as is, which is one reason why Gloor affiliated with Better Homes and Gardens, to gain some of the resources of a bigger company.
Gloor compared losing the Pilgrim name to the takeover of Park National Bank a few years ago.
"Unfortunately, it's become more and more difficult for the small-to-midsize real estate companies to compete without some kind of support," Gloor said.
At another longtime real estate company — Gagliardo Realty, around since 1958 — Andy Gagliardo said it's tough to see one of the old timers go. He said there's always been a good relationship and friendly competition between the local offices.
"It's too bad. I think it's a sad day for the local real estate market. You never want to lose a longstanding business," Gagliardo said.