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Realty Firm Sotheby’s Acquires DBL

Times Staff Writer

Sotheby’s International Realty, one of the toniest names in the home-selling business, strengthened its presence in Southern California’s upscale neighborhoods by acquiring DBL Realtors, the companies said Thursday.

Terms of the deal, which was completed Wednesday, weren’t disclosed.

Realtor to stars such as Madonna and Ricky Martin, Sotheby’s is a former division of the famous auction house. It was acquired by franchise giant Cendant Corp. this year. The firm sells homes in some of the world’s most expensive communities -- including the Provence region of France and Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

By acquiring Beverly Hills-based DBL, Sotheby’s will be able to further expand its upmarket niche, Sotheby’s Chief Executive Stuart Siegel said. DBL’s nine-office operation sold $3.3 billion worth of homes in 2003, primarily in Hollywood Hills, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Pasadena and Palm Springs -- markets Sotheby’s hasn’t fully cracked.

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In Southern California, Sotheby’s operates in areas where seven- and eight-figure price tags turn few heads. The company has listings ranging from a $32-million ranch near Santa Barbara to a $400,000 condo in Westwood.

DBL was founded in 1987 by Alan Long as Dalton, Brown & Long Realtors. Today, the company has more than 600 agents who are independent contractors. The DBL brand name will disappear as a result of the acquisition. Long said he signed a multiyear contract to remain with Sotheby’s as president of its Southern California region.

Long was able to expand his business after Cendant acquired Coldwell Banker, another top local realty, in 1996. At the time, many Coldwell agents bristled at the change in management and jumped ship.

In Southern California, Sotheby’s doesn’t yet have significant brand recognition because it has only four offices, said Patrick Veling, president of industry consulting firm Real Data Strategies. By combining with DBL, he said, “Sotheby’s will become a more ubiquitous presence and gain some serious momentum.”

To be sure, Sotheby’s is a real estate force on L.A.'s Westside. Of 230 companies that handled transactions of $1 million or more in the 12 months ended June 30, Sotheby’s ranked fifth, with 82 sales at an average price of $2.5 million. DBL ranked third, with 235 sales at an average price of $2 million, according to data compiled by Veling.

New York-based Cendant is the largest U.S. real estate brokerage company, which owns the Century 21 and ERA franchises as well as company-owned Coldwell Banker and Sotheby’s.


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