Just when it appeared the brokerage operation at Trammell Crow's Atlanta office nearly was down for the count, the company has fought back by hiring a top tenant representative team from CB Richard Ellis.

On Sept. 15, Rob Metcalf, a top producer at CB Richard Ellis' Atlanta office, left for Trammell Crow. Brokers Shan Morris, Mark Rosenthal and marketing specialist Celia Cornett joined Metcalf, who had worked at CB Richard Ellis since finishing college 17 years ago. Metcalf's move came about six weeks after CRESA Partners, which is continuing its aggressive national expansion program, grabbed away a half-dozen brokers from Trammell Crow's Atlanta office.

CRESA hired tenant representatives Bubba Chrismer, Abba Waller and Billy Hobbs, who had worked for Trammell Crow since it acquired their Peachtree Partners outfit in July 1998 as well as junior brokers Chris Scott, Jason Jones and Monica Alderman.

Neither Trammell Crow nor CRESA is apologizing for hiring away producers from their competitors. The phenomenon is occurring across the country as real estate brokerage houses position for an eventual upturn in business. “You hate to lose brokers, but it just happens to be the nature of the beast right now,” says John Whitaker, managing director of Trammell Crow's Atlanta office. “We've added a top-notch team in the city, arguably a stronger team [than the one Trammell Crow lost].”

The personnel changes in Atlanta also indicate that the fallout from CB Richard Ellis' acquisition of Insignia/ESG continues. Brokers across the country have left Insignia or CBRE, including Metcalf's former partner Duncan Gibbs, who joined Staubach Co.

During the summer, Craig Henig, who headed Insignia/ESG's Phoenix office, left for Trammell Crow, where he holds a top position. He brought several Insignia brokers with him.

Tom Tindall, a principal at CRESA Partners, says his company's Atlanta office needed a higher profile, and the team of Chrismer, Waller and Hobbs will help create one. “CRESA Partners has not had the name recognition and brand we needed in Atlanta because we didn't have the market penetration a year ago,” Tindall says.

Waller says his team did not leave Trammell Crow because it was unhappy with the company. Instead, they joined CRESA Partners because of the opportunity it offers and the chance to work with Tindall and CRESA's other Atlanta principals, including Jim Byrd.

The moves by Trammell Crow and CRESA leave each with 14 brokers in Atlanta — for now. Tindall says CRESA plans to hire more brokers in Atlanta and open three new offices nationally next year. CRESA currently has 23 offices and 16 affiliates.

Trammell Crow was quick to get the word out that it hired Metcalf, Morris and company. Will Trammell Crow's new tenant rep team adequately replace Chrismer, Waller and Hobbs and fortify the company's Atlanta brokerage operation? “Replace? It's going to trump it,” says Trammell Crow's Char Fortune Posey, to whom the new team reports.