Oak Park real estate firm F.C. Pilgrim acquired by Baird & Warner

Merger will create Oak Park's biggest brokerage


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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

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.

Reader Comments

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Catherine Vobornik from Oak Park  

Posted: July 4th, 2011 11:35 AM

I am an agent with Baird & Warner and have been for 8 years. We are and have been a local company for many years. All of our agents live in the area just like all of the other agencies. Baird & Warner's corporate office is located in Chicago. The company only exists in Illinois. I think the merging of the two offices is a wonderful opportunity. There are great agents in both offices and I am looking forward to working with all of them.


Posted: June 27th, 2011 2:52 PM

Doesnt B& W already have a local presence? No one is complaining that B&W isnt local on Lake St. Who sells the most real estate in Oak Park?

Bill Niro from Oak Park  

Posted: June 27th, 2011 1:54 PM

I have worked with Mike O'Neill, Lois Hall and Pilgrim brokers for many years---great local folks. With Mike involved, B&W will have a distinct local flavor--with all the advantages of a larger organization. Good luck to all concerned!!

Lois Hall Merrill from Tryon, North Carolina  

Posted: June 25th, 2011 10:10 AM

How sad!Yes, it is the end of an era and a sign of the times when BIG is always better. Selling for Pilgram was my pleasure for twenty years. A small office with very high standards. A good life and great opportunity.

Mila Tellez from Oak Park  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 8:54 PM

I have bought various properties from both agencies. In all cases I was treated with honesty and integrity both from Baird & Warner & Pilgrim. I have friends that work in both agencies and hope that they can continue to work now that they have merged.

op res. from op  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 7:16 PM

To those " I only buy local" folks, don't forget most of the RE agents ARE local. They are our neighbors and need our support. They had no say in said acquisition.

John McCarthy from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 6:33 PM

This is a great move between two mature companies in a mature business atmosphere. As far as competition goes, there's plenty of fish in the river for the other realtors in the area. If anything, this raises the integrity bar. Here's hoping that Mike O'Neill continues to pursue the insurance services end of the business; many older customers would be well served with comprehensive long term care coverage.

Leonard Grossman from River Forest  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 5:41 PM

Baird & Warner is really a "local" Illinois company. It may be large but has strong ties in the OPRF area and is not some nationwide monster coming into unknown territory. The combination of the Oak Park B&W office and B&W's resources with Pilgrim's seasoned sales force should be a real benefit to our community.

Chris Carrier  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 5:14 PM

We bought our house with Pilgrim as our agent last summer. We chose them partly because they were local and their history. I would not choose B&W necessarily if we were doing it again, and might instead go elsewhere. I want to support local businesses.

Jill O'Mahony Stewart from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 5:10 PM

Sorry to see a local business go away. Real estate has been hammered these last few years, but local ownership, local interest and local involvement sustain a community.

Ray from Oak Park  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 4:03 PM

Evidence of consolidation ongoing in sectors plagued by downturn and real estate collapse. My guess is they were failing or in unsustainable situation, cash-flow wise. A sign of the times.

T.J. from OP  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 2:04 PM

No, it's a well informed comment.

Molly Surowitz from Oak Park  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 1:57 PM

I don't know why you would think that B&W is worse than Walmart, that is an uneducated comment.

T.J. from OP  

Posted: June 24th, 2011 1:55 PM

This is bad news for Oak Park. Baird & Warner is worse than Walmart. Sorry to hear about this aquisition.

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