Benjamin James president leaves for Bond

By Candace Taylor | November 30, 2009 10:57PM

Douglas Wagner, president and general manager at Benjamin James Real Estate, has left the shrinking company for a position at brokerage Bond New York.

Wagner became executive managing director of sales at Bond just over a week ago, according to Bruno Ricciotti, a principal at Bond, and will manage sales and rentals at the company’s 45-agent Upper East Side office at 1500 Second Avenue between 78th and 79th streets.

Ricciotti said Bond and Benjamin James have often worked on rental deals together. Wagner’s departure raises questions about the future of Benjamin James,
which has lost market share during the recession. James Benjamin Ferrari founded the
firm in 1993, but in recent years left the company almost entirely in
Wagner’s hands.

Ferrari was not available for comment by press time.

A former dancer and musician, Wagner started at Benjamin James 14 years ago as an agent, he told The Real Deal. He worked his way up to president, taking on more and more responsibility as Ferrari became less active at the firm, which specializes in rentals.

But Benjamin James grew smaller as the recession hit New York City, dropping from 80 employees in four Manhattan offices to 20 agents in one office in Chelsea, and Wagner began looking to move to a larger brokerage.

“I was looking to take a leadership role in a much larger organization,” Wagner said.

He considered several different firms, he said, but chose Bond — which has some 270 agents — in part because he was impressed by the young company’s focus on teams and mentoring.

“What really impressed me was the structure that they have in this organization,” Wagner said. “It’s astonishing the amount of business they’re able to execute because of the way they’re set up. Here, people really do come to the company and within a few weeks, they’re already on their second or third deal.”

Wagner’s position as head of the East Side office is “really just a starting point,” Ricciotti said, adding that Wagner’s responsibilities likely will grow over time. “We’re going to let him spread his wings and see where he goes.”

Ricciotti said that he’s admired Wagner’s skills for years.

“Throughout my career in real estate, I’ve heard his name over and over
from agents who had really the most amazing things to say about him,”
Ricciotti said. “I’ve been told he’s literally the best manager in the
city.”

Wagner said he believes the company is planning to find a replacement for him, adding that he wishes it the best.

“I support them and hope they will remain a fixture in the residential marketplace in Manhattan,” he said.