Coldwell Banker’s CEO returns home to La Grange
Jim Gillespie, chief executive officer of Coldwell Banker, greets the real estate agents Monday at the La Grange office. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 27, 2012 10:13AM
LA GRANGE — The Fighting Illini’s Fight Song was music to the ears of Coldwell Banker’s chief executive officer as he visited his alma mater of sorts in the company’s La Grange office.
The sales staff rolled out the red carpet and a video crew Monday to welcome back Jim Gillespie, an avid Illini fan and 1967 alumnus, who started a long and successful real estate career in La Grange in 1975.
“I was working at the La Grange YMCA, and my tennis partner, who managed the Dixon Gallery of Homes, talked me into real estate,” recalled Gillespie, who had majored in parks and recreation.
“I was surprised to learn at lunch it’s no longer there,” he said, referring to the former Rich Port YMCA, razed in 2010.
“This is the first time I’ve been back in a long time,” Gillespie said. “The downtown was always great, but it looks just beautiful now.”
Gillespie returned to his realty roots to meet with the sales staff of about 60 agents and various levels of management, as well as celebrate his start on June 4, 1976 with Thorsen’s Realty Group, which later was bought by Coldwell Banker.
During the late 1970s, Gillespie lived in Western Springs and Clarendon Hills and managed a number of Chicago offices, including Oak Brook, Mundelein and Glenview.
From the Chicago area, Gillespie was promoted and moved to Washington, D.C., Boston, southern California, Kansas City, Atlanta and the company’s headquarters in New Jersey for the past 15 years.
Gillespie rose to be the top executive eight years ago overseeing 3,200 offices, including 700 in 49 countries with a staff of 88,000 sales associates. During the weekend, he announced he will scale back his involvement beginning Jan. 1 to serve as chairman emeritus.
“Nationally, the markets are pretty good now, but we have an inventory problem. The move-up buyer is not back in the market yet,” Gillespie observed, but noted the La Grange office is reporting multiple bids on the same property.
The number of units sold has increased by 9 percent in the past year, and prices have risen by 1 to 2 percent, he said.
“The best term is cautiously optimistic,” he said. “Things are slowly turning around, but we need help from the economy and help with job creation. Consumer confidence is up and down, very fragile.”
While continuing to motivate sales staff and help guide the company, Gillespie said he intends to spend more time with his three grandchildren in northern California on visits from his home outside Atlanta.
And during the Illini’s football season, Gillespie will be spending weekends at a townhouse in Champaign, Ill.
“Oh yes, I’ll be back for the football games,” he said.