In recent months, there have been whispers — and shouts — that Saunders & Associates, one of the two largest independently-owned brokerages on the East End, is being sold.
But on Sunday, the firm’s founder and president Andrew Saunders said that there was zero truth to the rumors, and accused his larger competitors of planting them in an effort to undermine the health of his firm.
“We are having no conversations regarding selling this company,” he told The Real Deal. “This is an engineered strategy by our competitors to create a level of uncertainty.”
In April, industry insiders said that Compass was in talks to acquire Saunders, and this past week, several sources said that Corcoran parent NRT is buying the firm. An acquisition by NRT would create an East End behemoth with more than 500 agents, eclipsing Douglas Elliman as the area’s biggest firm. Representatives for NRT declined to comment.
As of TRD’s May 2014 East End brokerage ranking, Elliman had 370 agents, Corcoran had 342, and Saunders & Associates had 128. On Sunday, Saunders said his firm now has more than 160 agents and claims it did $1.4 billion in sales in 2014. It just opened its third office, in East Hampton, and has about $900 million in closed and in-contract deals so far this year, he said.
Saunders believes his aggressive recruiting has made other firms jittery. “They don’t have any answer to it the old-fashioned way, which is to out-compete us,” he said. “The most damaging thing that you can do to a firm that is actively recruiting is to try and create some uncertainty about the ownership.”
Saunders said that early Sunday morning, one of his agents, formerly of Elliman, received a text from Paul Brennan, Elliman’s regional manager for the Hamptons. In the text, Brennan allegedly told the agent, Robert Tramondo, that NRT had bought Saunders & Associates and asked him if he’d like to rejoin his old firm.
Brennan could not be reached for comment by press time. Elliman and Saunders have tussled before, most notably in 2011, when Elliman accused its smaller rival of cyberpiracy.