Charles Russell, director of sales for Warburg Realty’s Upper East Side office, has abruptly left his position after two years — dealing a blow to the firm, whose uptown business remains its bread-and-butter despite attempts to remake its image and expand.
The industry veteran, who spent 18 years at the Corcoran Group and joined Warburg in 2015, informed agents of his departure in an email sent Aug. 24. “To be perfectly frank, I’m taking some time off and weighing opportunities,” Russell said by phone from the beach, where he was spending time with family. “I need a month to travel and chill.”
Russell declined to give a reason for his departure, other than to say: “I love managing and mentoring agents.” At Warburg, he oversaw 65 agents working out of the company’s flagship office at 654 Madison Avenue. “I have total respect for Fred,” he added, referring to CEO Frederick Peters.
For his part, Peters called Russell a “terrific guy” and said, “We agreed that it probably wasn’t the right role for him.” Going forward, Steve Goldschmidt, Warburg’s chief information officer, will take on “an additional agent facing role,” said Peters, who also anticipates working more closely with agents himself.
Warburg has undergone significant changes over the past three years in an effort to modernize and remain competitive, including an overhaul of its marketing strategy and management team spearheaded by Peters’ daughter, Clelia Peters, a former strategist at Boston Consulting Group. Clelia was named Warburg’s president last year, following a period of upheaval during which time several managers left.
Russell, for example, was hired following the departure of Robert Doernberg, a longtime sales manager who landed at the Corcoran Group after a short stint at Brown Harris Stevens. Prior to Warburg, Russell spent 18 years at the Corcoran Group and Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group. In 2010, he jumped to Douglas Elliman, and also did a stint at Stribling & Associates.
Last year, Clelia said she hoped to double the size of the company — both by number of agents and revenue — within the next five years. “We’re in a very privileged position,” she said. “We’re not forced to grow or die. Some of our very growth-oriented competitors are not that fortunate. We could stay exactly the same size and be totally fine and happy, but we see opportunity.”
But those changes have not come easily. Late last year, Warburg closed its Upper West Side office, leaving the firm with three locations — its recently-remodeled Flatiron office, an outpost in Tribeca and the firm’s main presence on the Upper East Side.
With 127 agents, Warburg was one of the top mid-sized brokerages on The Real Deal‘s 2016 ranking of residential firms. It had $255.9 million in exclusive listings at that time, down slightly from 2015. According to the New York Department of State, Warburg’s licensed agent count as of two weeks ago was 125.