Former CBHK agents leave the Realogy nest

By Candace Taylor | July 01, 2009 12:34PM

In the wake of Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy’s closure, many of the firm’s former agents have joined the competition rather than staying within the Realogy family.

Halstead Property nabbed 27 former CBHK agents, while its sister company, Brown Harris Stevens, hired four, according to spokespeople at the two companies. Meanwhile, Prudential Douglas Elliman snagged 22 agents from the independently owned Coldwell Banker franchise, founded in 1988. Charles Rutenberg Realty in New York also hired several agents.

That alone represents roughly a quarter of the agents at CBHK, which had 214 agents at the time it closed. That means that at the most, only 73 percent of CBHK’s agents went to Realogy brands the Corcoran Group and Sotheby’s International Realty.  

That’s far fewer than the percentage quoted by co-founder David Michonski, CBHK’s former CEO, who told The Real Deal as the firm prepared to close that agents were encouraged to go to Corcoran or Sotheby’s, and that “90 percent” would do so.

Corcoran and Sotheby’s are owned by NRT, a subsidiary of New Jersey-based Realogy, which operates Coldwell Banker franchises.  

The percentage of former CBHK agents that stayed within Realogy could be even less, since it’s unknown how many agents left the business or went to smaller firms like Bond New York, Warburg Realty or Bellmarc Realty.  

Residential firms Century 21 NY Metro, Core Group Marketing and Barak Realty confirmed that they have not hired any former CBHK agents, while the heads of Bond, Warburg and Bellmarc Realty did not respond to requests for comment.

Halstead’s new recruits include top-producing agents Elayne Reimer, Mary Hall Mayer, Bonnie Brown, James Harp, Debra Weiner, Helen Anderson and Michael DeRosa. Dawn Tsien, formerly the president of the new developments division at CBHK, moved to Prudential Douglas Elliman with a group of brokers, Elliman spokespeople said.

Corcoran declined to comment on how many former CBHK agents were hired at the company, but confirmed that, as predicted, CBHK co-founder JoAnne Kennedy now works there. Her title is senior vice president, a spokesperson said.

When CBHK  closed, Michonski said he encouraged agents to stay within Realogy because that’s where they’d “be most comfortable,” since they’d still be able to receive referrals from other Coldwell Banker offices.  

But Mary Hall Mayer, a former CBHK broker who now works at Halstead, said at the end of the day, the Coldwell Banker network “is still a referral out.”  

“On the one hand there’s the idea that you can reach out and refer to any Coldwell Banker office — that was very easy,” she said. “But then there’s a part of you that says, how much of your business is based on referral?”

Mayer said she was approached by three other firm after the news of CBHK’s closure was announced, and she considered their offers, especially since CBHK billed a move to Corcoran or Sotheby’s as the easiest option.

“We were told everything would just roll over,” she said.

But Mayer, who has worked at Halstead in the past, said she was impressed by the company’s recent expansion in the face of a down-market.  

Halstead, which is owned by privately-held Terra Holdings, recently gained five offices and 160 new agents by absorbing Connecticut real estate brokerage Country Living Associates.

To lure CBHK recruits, Halstead President Diane Ramirez hosted a cocktail party at her Upper East Side home for 50 of the firm’s brokers a few days after the mid-May announcement of CBHK’s closure.

By contrast, Corcoran and other firms have closed or consolidated offices.

In addition to closing offices, Corcoran has also lost some agents to other firms. Nancy Teague, who was a senior vice president and associate broker at Corcoran, is now a senior vice president at Terra-owned BHS. Corcoran’s Chris Leavitt has joined BHS Edward Lee Cave division as senior vice president and director.

Brown Harris spokesperson also said the company has hired at least 15 former CBHK former employees in the past two years.

BHS has also gained some new recruits from Elliman, including Drew Glick and Richard Ferrari, along with a team of roughly five agents. Glick and Ferrari are now senior vice presidents at the company.