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BULLS
4.  D E W O L F E   C O S .

Savvy moves pay off for firm

    Globe 100
Bulls:
  1. Clean Harbors
  2. Hologic
  3. NMT Medical
  4. DeWolfe
  5. Indevus Pharmaceuticals

Bears:
  1. Sonus Networks
  2. Art Technology Group
  3. Praecis Pharmaceutical
  4. American Tower
  5. Dusa Pharmaceutical

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A well-known name in residential real estate, DeWolfe Cos. of Lexington was in the right sector at the right time -- and it made some strategic moves that paid off in 2001.

As the economy declined and commercial real estate rode the decline, homeownership stayed strong.

Richard B. DeWolfe, chairman and chief executive, attributes much of last year's success to "things we can't control -- the fact that equity markets aren't performing, and people are aging."

Investment money hovered in homes. That was good for DeWolfe's stock: From March 31, 2000 to March 31, 2001, shares rose almost 182 percent, ending the one-year period at $13.50.

Success also came from DeWolfe's strategy of linking the basic elements of home ownership -- buying and selling, financing, and relocating -- in six related companies.

DeWolfe owns its 94 New England offices; they're not franchises. Dealing not only with individuals, DeWolfe also markets to businesses and other organizations that can use its services as an employee benefit.

The company's formula of related services, DeWolfe said, means that "unlike our competitors, we have a continuing relationship with nearly 30 percent of the customers who deal with us."

The powerful search engine for listings at www.dewolfe.com isn't profitable but is "a huge asset in this particular field," he said. Every house for sale in New England is listed, with videos for DeWolfe listings.

The company grew mostly by acquisition until 2000, but for the last two years has expanded on its own. "As a microcap company, we did not get a lot of attention until this sector started to perform," said DeWolfe, who bought the small company from his mother in 1974. Now, people notice.

THOMAS C. PALMER JR.


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