Connections, culture drove Ashlar Urban’s acquisition of Smith Company

Canada’s business community has always been something of a small world and that is particularly true in the real estate industry.
It was those long-term relationships that were behind Ashlar Urban Realty Inc.’s purchase of Smith Company.
The two Toronto companies have close ties at the top: Ashlar founder and president Craig Smith, Ashlar managing partner Jeff Thomas and Smith founder and president Paul Smith are all University of Western Ontario grads.
The two Smiths also worked at Knowlton Realty Advisors prior to starting their own firms, a shared experience that should make the merger of Smith’s personnel into Ashlar Urban a seamless one, explained Thomas.
“They were a dominant shop at that point of time, had unique training and policies and I think that we are both culturally really similar as a result of that history.
“We have a long history with Paul,” added Thomas. “So we have talked to Paul before in the past and most recently five or six weeks ago and thought this was a good opportunity to put the teams together.”
Paul Smith also believes the combination should be a seamless cultural fit: “Both companies share a commitment to entrepreneurialism and a dedication to client service. We are looking forward to bring our people and operations on to the Ashlar platform.”
Complementary firms
Smith’s group brings bench strength to Ashlar in office leasing, Thomas noted.
“Historically, the dominant portion of their business has been in the office leasing side where we have a lot of office leasing as well but we are a little bit more focused on the investment side. It’s very complementary.”
Ashlar Urban has staked out a healthy niche in real estate investment and sales: selling land, office building and retail assets and also boasting a couple of teams who are active in the office leasing side.
“I think people often see the signs for our office leasing assignments and assume that is the bulk of our business, but in fact we do a whole lot of other things that are below the radar.”
Bulking with the big guys
Thomas said that the acquisition of Smith, which will give it a combined complement of more than 30 people, will allow the company to better duke it out with bigger real estate services companies.
“This will allow us to compete more on the office side, especially with Paul and some of the guys who have a long history. This strengthens our senior depth in the business, because we have lots of great young and mid-level people with the (senior people) as a great complement to that.”
Ashlar Urban has a particular strength in D class and periphery office assets, Thomas explained, while Smith Company has strong relationships on the tenant side.
“I think it allows us to bring those two things together.”
It also combined two groups with deep industry relations that have been built up over decades.
Ashlar Urban touts its “long-term relationships with property owners, major tenants, government agencies and other local leaders” while Smith Company has “great landlord relationships and a solid long-term portfolio” focused on leasing in Toronto's financial core.
Wave the flag
Ashlar’s all-Canadian pedigree and “sole focus on real estate” will also be touted as a difference-maker going forward, Thomas said.
“What is neat and special to us is we are an independent shop, but a Canadian-focused shop Canadian-owned and operated. That is a unique element for us.”
The former employees of Smith Company have already moved into Ashlar Urban’s downtown Toronto offices on Pearl Street.
“Everybody is here, it’s a great mix and it seems to be a great fit,” Thomas said.



Paul is a writer, editor and media trainer based in Toronto with over 25 years of experience as a business reporter. He has written for Canada’s major news services on…

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Paul is a writer, editor and media trainer based in Toronto with over 25 years of experience as a business reporter. He has written for Canada’s major news services on…

Read more




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