UPDATED, 12:51 p.m., June 12: Dolly Lenz, Douglas Elliman’s perpetually top-ranked luxury sales broker, is leaving the firm after a 14-year tenure, The Real Deal has learned.
Lenz was not immediately available for comment on the reason for her departure. Elliman declined to comment.
For years, Lenz and fellow power broker Carrie Chiang of the Corcoran Group battled for the top spot on TRD‘s list of top Manhattan listing agents. Lenz eventually withdrew from her company’s own competition in 2011 in order to allow other brokers a chance to contend. Instead, she received a newly created Stratosphere award. This year, the brokerage’s top honor was awarded to Brazilian broker Marcos Cohen.
“Dolly’s production and transaction volume speaks for itself over the course of her career as a top producing broker,” said Andrew Heiberger, CEO of residential brokerage Town Residential, of Lenz’s departure. “She is probably pursuing an opportunity where she can leverage her brand, but this is just an outsider’s opinion.”
Kathy Braddock, co-founder of Rutenberg Realty, said Lenz’s departure might mean more of a loss to Elliman from a brand perspective than from a financial point of view. Lenz has recently made several television appearances, including on a one-off CNBC show entitled “Secret Lives of the Super Rich: Mega Homes,” in which she talked about calculating multi-million dollar price tags, six-figure commissions and told real estate war stories.
“I don’t know what [commission] split she’s on,” Braddock said, “but I don’t know if it’s such a monetary thing. [Her listings and connections] give them visibility.”
On his blog, fellow Elliman star broker Leonard Steinberg addressed whispers that Lenz might be set to start her own firm.
“Rumor has it she will be following the footsteps of brokers such as Michael Shvo, Shaun Osher and Wendy Maitland to start her own brokerage firm,” Steinberg said, referring to the independent broker, the CEO of Core and one of Town’s early hires, respectively. “The departure does not come as much of a shock to the industry: the rumor mill has been whispering of Dolly’s departure for some time.”
While Lenz had been consistently the top-producing broker at Elliman for years, Steinberg said her dominance had been somewhat “eroded” more recently by the rise of brokers like Shvo, now a developer, and Elliman star Raphael De Niro.
Still, if Lenz were to open her own company, she’d have a following with which to do so, sources said.
“[Her departure] is surprising but it’s not super shocking,” said top-producing broker Richard Nassimi of the Corcoran Group. “I don’t think she left Douglas Elliman because of Douglas Elliman. She is a name. She could open the Lenz Real Estate Group tomorrow and people would follow her.”
Braddock said it’s not unusual for a top-level broker to get itchy feet after a lengthy stint at one firm. Brokers “max out at a certain time,” she said.
Lenz has worked with celebrities like acting duo Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith as well as rocker Billy Joel and designer Karl Lagerfeld.
She is currently listing a $95 million penthouse at the Sherry Netherland at 781 Fifth Avenue and a three-bedroom residence at 116 East 61st Street, which is asking $12.49 million, according to her Elliman profile page, which has not yet been removed.
Lenz has not been seen around the office in recent months and did not attend the company’s annual awards ceremony earlier this year, according to sources within the firm. Her assistant, Nicholas Polihros, has also departed the firm, they said.