Two Manekins reunite to form new company; Brothers joining Abeshouse to market commercial properties; Real estate

When brothers Robert and Richard Manekin left their family-run real estate company for competitors earlier in this decade, neither envisioned working together again.

Robert left Manekin Corp. in September 1992 to work in Washington for a national brokerage firm and later became president of locally based Casey & Associates Inc. Richard departed in January 1990 for the downtown office of CB Richard Ellis, a Los Angeles commercial real estate brokerage firm.


But starting today, the two brothers -- with one-time Manekin Corp. Vice President Lynn Abeshouse -- are again joining forces to lease and sell commer- cial real estate.

With Manekin Bros. Abeshouse LLC (MBA), the brothers are hoping their surname will conjure the same magic in Baltimore as it did decades ago, when their father's and uncle's Manekin Corp. became a force in the downtown renaissance of the 1960s.


"We've been looking for some time at the legacy that we came from, the contribution that our relatives' firm made and the values we share, of quality service and commitment to clients," said Richard Manekin, 53, who has the most Manekin Corp. experience, with 21 years. "We feel it's important to make a difference in the business world and in the community. That's why we're doing this."

The three aim to make use of business relationships they have developed to get the fledgling business off the ground. Toward that end, MBA has been hired to lease office space in One Light Street, a $115 million skyscraper planned for downtown.

Richard Manekin had been responsible for finding office tenants for the 35-story tower while at CB Commercial, where he was a senior vice president. One Light Street, being proposed by J. J. Clarke Enterprises Inc. and Capital Guidance Corp., has no office tenants.

Robert Manekin and Abeshouse, an 11-year veteran of Manekin Corp., are expected to chip in as well. Some of their past clients include Cigna Corp., Sinai Hospital, the University of Maryland Medical System, Coopers & Lybrand and the Venable, Baetjer & Howard law firm.

Although MBA will focus on brokering building sales and lease deals, it hopes to expand its range of services. Abeshouse, in particular, has made a name for herself representing tenants.

However, the three MBA principals realize that the firm faces an uphill climb, because its formation comes as real estate companies are offering increased services, such as property management, development and lease auditing.

"At the end of the day, a client wants to work with a person, not an organization," said Robert Manekin, 50, who worked at Manekin Corp. for 15 years and will work as MBA's managing partner. "This is not an Internet operation where we feel we need critical mass to exist."

Said Richard Manikin, "We know this is a counter trend to the consolidating world we live in. But we feel bigger is not necessarily better."


But others, including the heads of the firms that the three are leaving, disagree.

"Obviously, we thought that even though we were a large firm, we felt it was important to be larger," said Richard M. Alter, chief executive of Manekin Corp., which merged in February with San Francisco-based AMB Property Corp., a publicly traded real estate investment trust that controls nearly $4 billion in assets.

"I wish them luck," Alter added. "And I assume the marketplace will differentiate between the two companies."

J. Joseph Casey, chief executive of Casey & Associates, also contends that more, if not bigger, is better. "The platform a national company can provide is far superior to that of a local company," said Casey, who acknowledges that his brokerage firm is in talks with at least two companies about a possible sale.

One former CB Commercial and Casey broker who started a shop three years ago seems to have found his niche. Ryan Commercial LLC, founded by Matthew J. Ryan, generated $140 million in transactional value last year, a figure he expects to eclipse this year.

"Starting your own business means you have the freedom to do what you want," Ryan said. "I've been fortunate because of a combination of the healthy market and because I'm working without any handcuffs. Plus, I've gotten the satisfaction that comes with building a business."