Warburg’s No. 1 agent Richard Steinberg joins Douglas Elliman

Departure comes amid upheaval at century-old firm

TRD New York /
Mar.March 25, 2015 03:10 PM

Richard Steinberg, Warburg Realty’s top-producing broker, is leaving the firm for rival Douglas Elliman, at a time when changes at the top at Warburg have created a schism in the company culture.

Both Warburg and Steinberg characterized the move as amicable, and said it was motivated by Steinberg’s desire to work in markets such as Palm Beach, Aspen and East Hampton, where the veteran Manhattan-based broker owns homes and Elliman operates offices. Steinberg grosses $100 million in sales a year, according to his bio on Warburg’s website, and he is one of the firm’s most prominent brokers.

“He’s making some changes in his life, which will involve him spending more time at his [other] homes,” Warburg President Fred Peters told The Real Deal in a phone interview on Wednesday. “He wants a platform which will allow him to do business in all those markets. I love Richard… but I get it, people’s lives change.”

In a statement, Steinberg said, “I have the utmost respect for the firm and Fred as this new chapter begins.” He added: “As my lifestyle has evolved, I wanted to be able to take advantage of business opportunities in the various markets where I own homes.”

Steinberg’s last day at Warburg will be April 1. Though he might be leaving on good terms, his departure will hit the 120-year-old firm hard. It comes on the heels of a management shakeup this fall that was spurred, in part, by the firm’s internal changes, including new marketing, branding and technology. Last year, Fred Peters’ daughter, Clelia Peters, joined the company as director of strategy and innovation after a stint at Boston Consulting Group.

In a March 19 email sent to Warburg staff and reviewed by TRD, Fred Peters acknowledged that change is a “complicated roller coaster.” He also addressed the fact that his daughter has been a “lightning rod for much of the discomfort which has accompanied the changes of the past year and a half.” But, he added, “What’s going on here is ultimately MY plan, borne out of my perception that the world was changing and we had to change with it or be left behind.”

Joining her father on the phone on Wednesday, Clelia Peters told TRD that Warburg agents sold more than $1 billion worth of real estate each year in 2013 and 2014. The firm has roughly 110 agents and four offices, including a new one at 18 West 21st Street. “On a per agent performance level, we feel we have just about the strongest roster of agents in the city,” she said.

There’s been a fair bit of turbulence along the way, however. This fall, former sales director Robert Doernberg decamped to Brown Harris Stevens, and in recent months, 10 agents have followed him, according to a list of agents provided to TRD by BHS.

Asked about recent agent departures, Fred Peters offered two reasons – namely, the current market dynamics and Warburg’s internal evolution. “I have never seen such a period in which there was so much [agent] movement,” he said. Of Warburg’s metamorphosis, he said: “Change shakes people up and sometimes it shakes people out, and not everybody remains aligned as the vision changes… We have an extraordinary 100-year-old brand. We just felt like we wanted to refresh it, to make it more current in the marketplace.”

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