The Real Deal New York

Heiberger steps away as CEO of Town

Brokerage head’s employment contract will not be renewed, he said

January 30, 2014 08:00AM
By Katherine Clarke

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From left: Andrew Heiberger, Jeff Appel and Joe Sitt

From left: Andrew Heiberger, Jeff Appel and Joe Sitt

Town Residential founder Andrew Heiberger is no longer serving as chief executive officer of the city’s fastest-growing brokerage, The Real Deal has learned.

The move leaves current president and COO Jeff Appel, who joined the company full-time in September, to oversee the day-to-day operations of the 600-agent firm.

Appel confirmed that Heiberger had ceased to be CEO in recent days. Instead, the former chief will focus on broader business-development issues, Appel said.

“I wasn’t part of the decision,” Appel noted.

When contacted by The Real Deal, Heiberger said the move was the result of the expiration of his three-year employment contract with Town, which was inked in 2011 as part of a deal with the company’s equity partner, Joseph Sitt’s Thor Equities.

Six years after selling his previous venture, rental giant Citi Habitats, to NRT, Heiberger founded Town in 2010. He brought Sitt in as a partner in 2011. Heiberger and Sitt have an equal stake in the firm.

“Upon the commencement of my partnership with Joe Sitt and Thor Equities on January 27, 2011, I signed a three-year exclusive contract with Town to be the acting CEO,” Heiberger said in a statement. “My contract naturally expired two days ago. I am still a 50 percent owner, founder and member of the board.”

While Heiberger declined to comment further, sources told The Real Deal that there had been trouble brewing between Sitt and Heiberger for some time, despite Town’s rapid growth.

Sitt and Heiberger have been partners before. The duo formed a joint venture in 2005 to purchase 88 Greenwich Street, which they transformed into a luxury condo project. (Town now has an office in the building.)

In a statement, a spokesperson for Thor Equities said: “Andrew and Joe have successfully collaborated for many years and will continue to do so as Town Residential solidifies its position as the top residential brokerage in New York City.”

It may seem like an odd time for the company to switch gears. The three-year-old firm has been on a growth spree since its launch and now has 10 offices.

When mortgage banking veteran Appel, a former vice president of CitiBank who previously served part-time as Town’s director of professional development, moved into his role in September, he said the firm was looking to slow it’s growth and look towards making its operations more efficient.

“The company has been moving at the speed of light for three years,” he said at the time. “At this point, it’s time to reorganize and plan for the future. We need to optimize those offices.”

Appel said Heiberger’s move would not effect operations at Town in the near term. It was not clear if a new CEO would be brought on board.

  • realness estate

    Sitt is tired if losing money

  • observer

    Thor must have a motive or something significant planned…. If they don’t I am very concerned for what happens next… In a business where agents and brokers are constantly jumping ship for no reason, upsetting the applecart at this point in this manner doesn’t seem well executed.

    Does anyone else smell blood in the water… Which Shark will be the first to strike…

    • Sol Goldman

      May be too much playing with the interns.

  • Jeffery Silverstone

    Maybe Andrew can now address his long standing Chris Farley issue of sweating to the nosebleeds of his addiction

  • Thom Kane

    This is a bizarre turn of events. It looks like they are doing so well and growing so fast, why would they change direction now?

    • Sol Goldman

      It involves an intern..

  • Atticus Finch

    Syrian vs. Ashkenasi. My money is on the SY.

  • WQ

    They grew too fast. Still one of the better operations out there today, but I would bet their balance sheet isn’t looking great at the moment. Old saying used to be that 80% of the business is done by 20% of the agents. Of that 20% perhaps 5% is doing 80% of the business these days. There are seismic changes underway in the real estate industry, which sadly few realize. It’s a byproduct of lack of inventory and the flashiness of social media and the “team” brokers really having a lot of momentum right now. The individual agent is practically starving. It’s not all going to change tomorrow, but a couple years from now you’re going to see a much different landscape in the real estate industry. I often feel we’re just one turn away from someone cracking the “Expedia” code for example.

  • Shark Tank…

    Wow, that does not look good for Town, must be trouble in paradise.
    Andrew should take a break, he got it off the ground, now join “Shark Tank” :)

  • RE watcher

    This was always the plan. Andrew was always only supposed to be there for 5 years but I guess 3 was the golden number. He is still a partner and the company will continue as it has been. The question of the hour is… who will fill those shoes??

    • Anonymous

      you should read today’s article…truth be told—Appel lied to the firm and then he get word of Heiberger suit; now why are you trying to protect the truth

  • Play Nice

    When elephants fight it is the ants that are hurt…

  • nycrealtyfan

    It’s going to be an epic ugly battle. The reps and the
    clients are the only ones that will suffer. Messrs. Heiberger and Sitt will
    still be filthy rich just not friends (or partners) anymore. =

    I am interested to know what the term “bad acts”
    refers to. Were these purported acts illegal? Could there be legal actions
    taken if money’s from the firm was used? Drugs? Ladies of the evening? Mr.
    Heiberger certainly is not shy with the women and there are plenty of rumors of
    drug use so one can only imagine what that term is insinuating.

    One very interesting tidbit is where one of the commenters mentions
    an email from their newly crowned COO Mr Appel. He apparently emailed the
    entire firm telling everyone that everything is fine and there is nothing to
    worry about. Then a mere few hours later Mr. Heiberger emails everyone to
    announce his departure and subsequent lawsuit. Is Mr Appel a lame duck? Who is the leader? Where is Wendy Maitland in
    all of this? She is awfully quiet for someone with such a large role in the
    firm.

    If I worked there I would be polishing up my resume and
    calling all of my contacts this weekend. The lack of leadership and respect
    shown to the employees and agents is appalling.

  • Bye Bye…

    Say goodbye Andy, the billionaire wants you out :)

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