Four years ago, Leonard Steinberg stunned the brokerage world when he announced he was leaving Douglas Elliman for Compass, then a startup brokerage with just $150 million in its war chest.
“It was a very tumultuous time, because I took an enormous risk on a company that was not known for resale brokerages at all,” Steinberg told The Real Deal‘s E.B. Solomont in a recent studio interview. “I walked away from well over a billion dollars worth of business, so the risk I took was enormous — but I’ve always been one to enjoy a good calculated risk.”
Since then, much has changed for the technology-focused brokerage, which has added numerous well-known names to its roster, expanded in cities across the country and amassed a $2.2 billion valuation following a $450 million investment from SoftBank.
Throughout it all, Steinberg has had to navigate the tricky gray area that comes with being both president of a brokerage firm and one its top-producing agents.
“I’ve learned over time that there have been agents and brokerages that have said, ‘Why would you want to list with Leonard, or why would you want to work at Compass if you have someone in senior management competing against you for the same business?'” Steinberg said. “Pretty much 99 to 100 percent of my business is an existing clientele that has expanded out of existing clientele — so I think it was a very untrue perception that I think requires more clarity.”
To minimize the appearance of any conflict of interest, Steinberg told TRD he is stepping down as president and into a new role at Compass.
“I have no idea how the industry will react, but I do know the agents who I care about most know who I am, know how I conduct myself and will completely understand what that means,” Steinberg said.
To watch Steinberg announce his new role and talk more Compass’ profitability, why new development will always be an important part of the business, and whether Compass is a tech company or brokerage, check out the video above.
Video produced by Jhila Farzaneh