CBRE 110 Years in the U.S.
He Put the “RE” in CBRE
Before the American Declaration of Independence, a man set up shop in London, working as an “upholder.” He had one apprentice, his nephew Richard Ellis who took over the business. Their legacy lives on in CBRE.
In 1773, William Ellis, an “upholder and appraiser,” opened his business in London. At the time, upholders and appraisers made and sold furniture, provided valuations of goods and property, and held auctions. Upon the death of a wealthy person, the upholder and appraiser would be summoned to make the cofﬁn and help distribute the deceased person’s household goods and property, including real estate.
A few years later, William took his nephew, Richard Ellis, on as his apprentice. The two worked together and grew the business over the next 48 years until William Ellis died in 1808.
Richard Ellis led the family business during a prosperous era, when London was developing into a leading international trade and commercial center. The population of the city nearly doubled, new building regulations were enacted, appraisals became more formalized, and auctioneers relocated to a new, centralized Auction Mart.
In 1821, Richard’s oldest son, Richard Ellis, Jr. turned 21 and joined his father in the ﬁrm, Richard Ellis and Son. When younger brother Charles entered the business, the elder Richard divided the ﬁrm between his two sons. Charles took the furniture- and cabinet-making side, and Richard took over as auctioneer and appraiser. Richard Ellis, Sr. passed away in 1846 at age 77.
By 1871, London’s population had doubled again and stood at nearly 4 million. As businesses moved from the ﬁrst ﬂoors of homes to ofﬁce and retail buildings, home sales gave way to larger commercial transactions.
In 1875, Richard Ellis, Jr. hired his nephew, 25-year-old Richard Adam Ellis. Richard Ellis, Jr. remained the senior partner of the ﬁrm until his death in 1885 at age 85.
Throughout the next 60 years, Richard Adam Ellis grew the business, leasing and administering ofﬁce buildings in London, auctioning properties, and representing prominent companies and families, including Twinings Tea, the Anglo-Austrian Bank and the Oppenheimers. At one point it was said that there were probably few, if any, properties around London that at some time or another had not passed through Richard Adam Ellis’ hands for sale, purchase or other purpose.
Nothing but the best satisfied him.
In 1918, Richard Adam Ellis turned 68. His son, Hugh, had died in India and his other son, Rae Adam Ellis, and several nephews who had worked for the ﬁrm, were killed in World War I. With no male heirs to take over the business, Richard hired other partners but continued to manage the ﬁrm until 1938, when he retired at age 88. So ended the reign of the Ellis family over the company that beared their name.
Richard passed away in September 1945 at the age of 95—but his legacy lives on.
In 1948, the creation of the European Economic Community encouraged the firm to expand overseas. It formed associations in Australia, South Africa and Canada, and opened its own offices in Europe. The firm eventually split into two partnerships—Richard Ellis in Britain and an international firm, called REI Limited, operating outside Britain.
In the mid-1990s, the British firm was acquired by Insignia Financial and the international one by CB Commercial in 1998. The two businesses were finally reunited in 2003, when CB Richard Ellis acquired Insignia Financial.