BELL PARTNERS, FORMERLY KNOWN AS Steven D. Bell & Co., is still riding high almost a year after it teamed up with DRA Advisors to purchase an 86-community portfolio from UDR—the largest public deal of 2008. “I am glad we did it, and I would do it again,” says Jon Bell, the firm's co-managing partner. “I maybe would have wished to pay less, but we think it was a good strategic play.”
Still, Bell is the first to admit he doesn't know yet if the deal was a success. “I can't tell you whether an investment is a success or failure until the day we sell it. So when we fast forward seven years, then I will let you know how well we did.”
Right now, the firm is looking beyond that seven-year horizon. This month, Bell Partners debuted its new name and launched a strategic vision to ensure the Greensboro, N.C.-based firm's staying power. The plan starts with a top-level reorganization: Bell transitioned from principal to co-managing partner, joined by his brother, Durant. Robert Slater, formerly with AvalonBay Communities, joined as chief operating officer. The changes will make the firm more nimble: With the previous management structure, if something were to happen to one of the top leaders, the company may have slowly dissolved, Bell says.
Bell Partners also decided to focus strictly on apartments and senior housing and will no longer acquire commercial projects, which currently make up about 10 percent of its portfolio. “We felt we were at risk of being good at a lot of things and great at nothing,” Bell says. Clearly, the firm won't let that happen.