WHR Crossley Buckley Williams Rooney
WHR's equity partners Dan Crossley, Gareth Buckley, Mark Williams, and Mike Rooney

Avison Young eyes acquisitions to double staff numbers

Charlie Schouten

Nine months after its purchase by Canadian giant Avison Young, the former WHR team in Manchester is planning further growth and acquisitions, including the doubling staff numbers in the next three years, according to director Mark Williams.

The takeover was first mooted in late 2016, before being completed on 1 November 2017, while the WHR name was dropped the same month. Manchester is Avison Young’s fifth office in the UK and its 11th in Europe.

Speaking to Place North West, Williams said he had found it “limiting to just re-invest profits back into the business” as WHR, the company he founded in 2001 alongside ex-Lambert Smith Hampton colleagues Mike Rooney and Mike Hawkins. Hawkins left the business five years ago to join Colliers International.

“Avison Young are very culturally aligned to what we were doing at WHR and have given us that opportunity to grow the business,” Williams said.

Avison Young has advised on more than £120m of investment deals from the Manchester office since its takeover, and the team has grown from 37 staff to 42 over the last nine months. New arrivals include Charles Ardern and Aaron Graham, who were hired from Knight Frank to establish the company’s valuations team in April this year. The group has also hired from Rapleys in recent months.

Williams said he wanted to double the size of the company in the next three years, with expansions in the rating team, the valuations team, and additional disciplines all on the table.

“It’s about filling in the gaps; we don’t currently have a retail function, so we may look at that, nor do we have a planning function, so that’s also an option.”

Growth could be “both organic and through acquisitions”, added Williams, who said Avison Young was fully supporting the plans to expand the office, with a global pot of $250m Canadian Dollars – around £145m – available to draw from.

The group has four staff in its capital markets team, four in industrial agency, and five in office agency, and is active across Manchester and Warrington, while Williams added the company would be looking to expand its presence in Liverpool in the future.

Since the takeover, Williams said the company has managed to maintain its core client base and the team is now marketing around £50m of investment properties in the region.

“There has been no slow down in demand and there’s a strong appetite for investment from capital markets, particularly in prime city centre property,” said Williams, who expects office rents to push beyond £35/sq ft for new-build in the coming months.

Williams added there would be “natural progress” in the expansion of Avison Young’s office and industrial agency team. The company is currently appointed on city-centre offices including 83 Fountain Street; Pall Mall Court on King Street; 60 Spring Gardens; and 125 Portland Street. The office agency team is headed up by Rupert Barron

Meanwhile, its industrial team, led by Mike Rooney, is currently marketing four industrial estates in the region.

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