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February 17, 2009  
Commonwealth Title

Feb 19 is a popular day for events! GWCAR hosts a breakfast on the market at the Tysons Ritz. NAIOP Maryland hosts one on GSA and the Public Sector at the Bethesda North Marriott. That evening DCBIA has a meeting on "Le Deal" at the Press Club, and AAREP (African-American Real Estate Professionals) has one on funding your business during a downturn. No wonder Donald Trump has bought that Lowes Island golf course—this is where the action is!


Get used to hearing “Commonwealth Land Title.” That’s the new name for storied LandAmerica and 20 vets of its DC office whom we snapped below last week (and know well—they’re our title sponsor). The main difference is that they’re now part of the #1 Title Insurance Underwriter in the U.S. instead of #3 (as ranked by market share, revenue, market cap, and claim reserves).   


Yes, LandAmerica filed bankruptcy last fall, but it had nothing to do with its title insurance subsidiaries, Commonwealth and Lawyers Title. At the end of November, Fidelity National Financial bought those still-valuable subs out of bankruptcy. Now they belong to the same parent that owns Chicago Title, Alamo Title and Fidelity National Title, among others. The combined brands represent over 40% of the title insurance market and have loss reserves in excess of $1.5 billion.

Lerner Enterprises

New office chief is Pam Saylors, formerly president of Land America’s entire US commercial division based in Richmond, to whom 54 offices reported. Now here, she oversees the office’s wide-ranging activities like collecting closing documents, reviewing and clearing title, handling funds, and insuring transactions. The office is busy again, though many of the transactions have to do with “reworks” like loan modifications and assignments.

Preferred Offices

Commonwealth’s DC office can look a bit like a boutique law firm at times, with its 10 lawyers. Here are specimens Candace Chazen, Jeanne LaBelle and David Nelson posing for a Bisnow Moment. (That’s like a Kodak Moment, except where we pretend it’s real.)  Candace is still the office’s biz dev queen, and Jeanne and David are “major transaction counsel.” They’re smiling because they just closed a couple deals: a $200 million construction loan and a “large recap” where membership in an equity consortium was transferred to someone who brought in new capital.


David’s been with the Company for 23 years, originally from Arkansas. By coincidence, he (and colleague Susan Trapkin) did the closing on the Clintons’ new DC home January 15, 2000.  It was held in the White House Map Room, after which they rode with the Clintons up the elevator to the Blue Room, above, for a reception with champage and shrimp. We are told this is the first time this story has been in print. But here’s a far more historic fact about this photo: According to research performed by top Bisnow investigators, and corroborated by the National Archives, it’s the first known instance of David Nelson wearing a coat and tie.


Famed Commercial Settlements lawyer Stuart Levin (now retired—Hi, Stuart!) started a collection of snow globes that colleagues were required to procure in towns they visited on business. Here Susan Trapkin, Stuart’s former paralegal and now chief curator of the collection of 168, holds one of her tackiest favorites.


A population explosion is occurring in the office. In June, Tom Madigan had twin boys, and three months ago Michael Segal had a girl (his third child); Joanne Leong and Lucy Boyd are expecting. Commonwealth plans ahead.


Some charity event reminders from friends at Akridge, Davis, CBRE, and Washington Properties:  Monte Carlo Night for Children’s National Medical Center is Feb 28 at the DC Ritz; the Washington Project for the Arts’ annual art auction gala is March 7 at AU’s Katzen Center; and you’re all invited to help start the planning for the famous JDRF Real Estate Games on June 11.

Lerner Enterprises
Washington Property Company
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