Grubb & Ellis/Martens Commercial Group is now NAI Martens; NAI John T. Arnold Associates drops its NAI affiliation

Steve Martens (left) and Tom Johnson of the newly named NAI Martens.

WICHITA — Turns out Steve Martens will have to order new stationery.

“We have left Grubb and Ellis,” says the CEO of what formerly was known as Grubb & Ellis/Martens Commercial Group.

The company now is an affiliate of NAI Global and will be known as NAI Martens.

Wichita’s John T. Arnold Associates previously was an NAI affiliate and now is an independent operation.

“We’re just kind of relooking at our … working model,” says John T. Arnold president Marlin Penner. He says he and executive vice president Don Arnold decided to focus on the clients they have and simplify their operation. NAI asked that they retain the affiliation until it could find another one in the market.

“We have a huge respect for Steve and his organization, and we’re just thrilled they’re taking it over,” Penner says. “It was the right thing for everybody involved.”

California-based Grubb & Ellis filed for bankruptcy early this year and eventually sold to BGC Partners.

At the time, Martens told Have You Heard? that there was a chance the firm could remain an affiliate or go another direction.

“We wanted to find the right fit,” he says.

“We looked at virtually every other opportunity that was out there,” says NAI Martens president Tom Johnson. “Anyone that’s not in the market is someone we talked to.”

NAI is a group Martens talked to before deciding to affiliate with Grubb & Ellis in 2000.

“Over the years, they have really grown and matured as a company,” Johnson says.

C-III Capital Partners completed its purchase of NAI Global this summer.

“C-III brings to them the capital they need to grow and really develop that company,” Johnson says.

With more than 5,000 employees in 350 offices, NAI Global is the largest international network of commercial real estate firms. All its affiliates are independently owned and operated, which is key for Martens and Johnson.

If a company has affiliates and corporate offices, the affiliates “sometimes are stepchildren,” Johnson says.

“With NAI, everybody is on the same footing.”

He says the affiliates can share best practices in a noncompetitive way.

“It allows us to up our business from an entrepreneurial standpoint,” Johnson says.

Remaining independent was an option they considered, but Martens and Johnson say they saw the multimarket opportunities and value an affiliation can bring to clients.

About five percent of the firm’s business is international, and about 15 percent is national.

In addition to the new affiliation, which takes effect Jan. 1, NAI Martens has acquired NAI Kaw Valley Commercial in Topeka. That’s a one-man brokerage office that NAI Global previously owned.

“We’re very excited about that opportunity to expand into the Topeka market,” Martens says.

The firm currently has an appraisal office in Lawrence that will be moving to Topeka to consolidate with the Topeka office.

“We will grow that,” Johnson says.

Some potential affiliations Martens and Johnson considered would have forced Martens to give up the Martens name, which his father, R.D., originated with the company in 1948.

“The NAI brand allowed us to keep Martens in the name,” Martens says.

He says many of the positive qualities that attracted him to Grubb & Ellis are qualities that NAI has, too.

“We had a wonderful run with Grubb,” Martens says.

He says the firm at least tripled its dollar value during its time with Grubb & Ellis and doubled in size. Today, it employs 87 people in five divisions, including almost 20 people on the brokerage side.

NAI Martens signs will go up between Christmas and New Year’s.

“We’re going to start leveraging that presence more,” Johnson says. “It’s incumbent on us to step up our game. There’s a lot of real positives going forward. We’re pretty bullish on next year.”