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CBRE said it was hired to act “as a primary adviser” to the FDIC for its real estate portfolio nationwide, according to a press release announcing the contract. The firm called the FDIC a “major account.”

Mr. Blum became chairman of CBRE in 2001 and has played a major role in its corporate business strategies. He led a buyout of the company, first taking it private and then a few years later taking it public again. He runs an investment management firm called Blum Capital Partners, which controls the second largest block of publicly traded CBRE stock - 38 million shares or 14.4 percent.

Mr. Blum, whose position as chairman of CBRE is not full time, sets up partnerships through Blum Capital Partners that invests money for its clients and its owners. He reported owning more than $3 million in CBRE stock through various partnerships at the end of 2007, according to Mrs. Feinstein’s personal financial disclosure statement.

CBRE’s initial contract is for three years. The FDIC has the option to extend it for three two-year periods, records show. The contract calls for the real estate firm to be used “as needed.”

In March, the FDIC said it had assigned CBRE 507 properties for disposal, valued at $221.7 million. In March, the company already had 23 FDIC properties valued at $11 million under contract to be sold.

Over the past 16 months, 50 banks have failed and more are expected to close. As a result, nobody knows how much CBRE will be able to earn over the life of the FDIC contract.

Blum and the stock offering

The FDIC contract came at a good time for CBRE. Even though it remains the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm, it was hit hard by the economic downturn. The company saw its revenues and income slide in 2008 and its stock price tumbled from $24.50 in May to below $4 in November.

“Our third quarter results reflected the extremely challenging market conditions, which continued to deteriorate globally,” Brett White, president and chief executive officer of CBRE, said in early November.

A few days later, CBRE raised $207 million through a stock offering that sold for $3.77 a share. Mr. Blum’s investment partnerships bought 10.6 million shares at the market price of $3.77. The stock offering was announced a couple of days before the signing of the FDIC contract.

In its November prospectus for the stock sale, CBRE warned potential investors that the company could be hurt by the money problems of its clients, noting that federal regulators had recently taken over one of its “significant” clients, Washington Mutual, the nation’s largest savings and loan.

The terms of the contract

CBRE won a highly favorable contract, according to real estate experts who reviewed the terms at the request of The Times.

CBRE is to be paid under a three-tiered system with sliding rates, according to a rate proposal provided to The Times under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. For starters, CBRE gets to charge a setup fee of $450 for each residential property and $600 for each commercial property it takes over from the FDIC.

“That is highly unusual,” said Ms. Kenner, the Colorado-based foreclosure expert. She said she does not collect a separate setup fee and was expected to do such work as part of her commission.

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