Top CB Richard Ellis sales broker Bill Palmer is going independent after 18 years of deal making out of the Sacramento, Calif. office. The Palmer Group Inc. opens its doors on March 1.

Palmer is no slouch. The former investment banker led one of CBRE’s top grossing sales teams for 6 straight years. In fact, Palmer was named CBRE’s top worldwide broker from 1998 through 2003. Last year alone, Palmer worked on roughly $800 million in office and industrial deals.

He claims the decision to break away from CBRE was primarily “client driven.” “We were encouraged to launch our own brand in order to facilitate a clearer understanding of our services while eliminating potential conflicts or confusion in the market,” says Palmer, president and chief executive of the Palmer Group.

Some of Palmer’s clients during his years at CBRE include Pannatoni Development Company, Triple Net Properties and Hines Interests.

Palmer claims that the “key to this move is that nothing will change,” but that doesn’t appear to be the case. For one thing, Palmer will no longer work on a split with a parent brokerage. CBRE would not divulge how Palmer’s split (as in percentage of commission paid to the broker versus the firm) was structured.

Top-level brokers typically work on a 70/30 split (i.e where 70% of the commission is paid to the broker). Heavyweight brokers can even command as much as an 80/20 split. That’s great for the broker while the brokerage sees a severely reduced cut. Greg Vorwaller, CBRE’s president of investment properties, declined to comment on Palmer’s split.

“We enjoyed a great relationship with Bill, and we respect his decision making,” says Vorwaller.

CBRE brokered $28 billion worth of investment sales deals in 2004, reports Real Capital Analytics. That amounts to twice as many transactions as the next leading brokerage. The Palmer Team averaged roughly 40 transactions per year totaling about $1 billion.

“Palmer is a legendary dealmaker, but his defection won’t have a huge effect at CB Richard Ellis,” says one West Coast real estate source who works closely with the brokerage industry.

“When you get to be as big a dealmaker as Palmer, you don’t want to share deals,” says the source, who asked not to be identified. He also believes that CBRE will hire talented brokers to fill in any gap created by Palmer’s departure.

He adds: “This is a huge company that’s doing a ton of deals.”