The Real Deal New York

Massey Knakal retail director departs firm after only nine months

Ellaina Dreifach says she received an "unfair" commission split and was victim of uncomfortable working conditions
By Katherine Clarke | November 21, 2011 06:46PM

Ellaina Dreifach
, who was nabbed by Massey Knakal Realty Services from Eretz Realty earlier this year to run day-to-day operations for its new retail division, has left the firm after only nine months, she told The Real Deal today, citing an unfair commission split and uncomfortable working conditions at the New York City investment sales firm.

Benjamin Fox
, executive vice president of retail leasing at Massey Knakal, brought Dreifach over to the firm in January in his effort to staff up what was then the firm’s new retail leasing division, which he heads.

Dreifach was promoted to first vice president of retail leasing from director of retail leasing at Massey Knakal in October, focusing on the Tribeca and the Financial District neighborhoods. Massey Knakal currently has eight retail brokers — six in Manhattan and two in Brooklyn.

Dreifach said she was unhappy with Massey Knakal’s territory model, a system that divides the New York metro area into nearly 50 geographic territories and assigns a broker to each one. The system worked well for building sales at the company, she said, but did not transfer well to retail leasing. There were also problems with the commission split, she noted. Dreifach said that, despite a long career in real estate, she was not aware of the details of the commission model before taking the job at Massey Knakal in January.

Before her position as vice president at New York City full-service commercial real estate company Eretz, Dreifach was an asset manager at Forest City Ratner Companies. She served earlier in her career as president of San Francisco commercial firm Little Harbor Companies. She declined to comment on whether or not she had found a position elsewhere.

According to Massey Knakal’s territory commission system, if a retail broker gets a lead, it is passed on to a broker in the relevant territory and that broker pays part of their commission to the lead originator.

“You have to pay the person in your territory 20 percent of your income,” she said, “and then Bob Knakal, [chairman of Massey Knakal], and Paul Massey, [CEO of Massey Knakal], want another 20 percent of your income. It’s ridiculous. It’s okay for the newbies but I’ve been in retail for 25 years. The territory model doesn’t work for retail but [Massey] is going to ride it out until it dies.”

Dreifach said she may consider suing the brokerage over the way she was treated during her tenure, alleging that there were issues of sexual harassment and illegal drug use.

A spokesperson for Massey Knakal called the allegations “patently absurd and utterly baseless.”

Despite a bio prepared by the company for Dreifach when she first started and forwarded to The Real Deal at the time indicating that she is a director, the firm today denied that Dreifach had ever been hired as a director, saying she was brought on as an associate/secretary and was later promoted to an agent’s position. The firm added that she would have been fully aware of the terms of her position contract before signing on.

Massey previously told The Real Deal that the territory system provides a corporate structure and street-level knowledge for brokers.

“The whole purpose of a territory system is two-fold,” Massey said. “One, client service is better because you underwrite or evaluate the property better,” and the second is the depth of market reports.

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