Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. said yesterday it has acquired Begg Inc., an old-line Washington real estate firm that has specialized for the last 40 years in selling high-priced homes to the District's elite.
Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Begg is owned and run by Jeanne Begg, 76, who has been called the "grande dame" of Washington real estate. Over the years, her firm has handled the sale of some of the most prestigious homes in the Washington area.
Begg sold Hickory Hill to John and Jacqueline Kennedy, before it became the home of Ethel and Robert Kennedy. She also sold homes to former secretaries of defense Caspar Weinberger and Alexander Haig.
The firm also specialized in selling homes to Washington's international community, and her firm handled the sale of many of the city's ambassadorial residences, as well as handling the sales of overseas properties for its monied clientele.
Although Begg was known for her low-key sales approach, she wasn't above flashy sales maneuvers. She once hired a helicopter to drop a can of Danish pate on the front porch of a man whose Caribbean estate she wanted to buy.
Long & Foster said it will close Begg's offices in Chevy Chase and McLean, but will retain its Georgetown office. It will also retain Begg's property-management division, which manages 300 rental properties in the Washington area.
All of Begg's 75 agents have been asked to join Long & Foster, said Jack Queen, a Long & Foster senior vice president. The Georgetown office will be renamed Begg/Long & Foster, and Jeanne Begg will become president of the new entity, Queen said.
"We think the name Begg means a lot, and we don't want to give it up," Queen said. "It's been a symbol for expensive homes for 40 years."
Begg's firm was known for its tightknit core of loyal real estate agents, many of whom were former Foreign Service employees.
The company's sales fell last year in the face of the Washington area's residential real estate slowdown, which has hit high-priced homes especially hard.
Some of Begg's real estate agents have been highly sought after. Last week, the manager of Begg's Georgetown office left to join Shannon & Luchs, taking five Begg agents with him.
Begg had a total sales volume of about $100 million last year. Long & Foster had a total sales volume of $6.4 billion.
Jeanne Begg, who raises race horses on her Maryland estate, said she decided last year to sell her firm on its 40th anniversary. "I wanted to do less, and I thought it was time for some new young blood to take over."