Former CoStar employees are firing more rounds at the chief executive of real estate data firm CoStar.
A former communications director at the company claimed CEO Andy Florance brandished a black semiautomatic pistol during a March 2020 video meeting, as well ammunition for the weapon, Insider reported.
CoStar claimed it didn’t happen, but text messages sent by the ex-spokesperson immediately after the call corroborated the account, as did two former employees who received the messages.
The same communications director later received a text message from Florance showing a target riddled with bullets. CoStar noted Florance is “a well-trained and licensed shooter who is passionate about firearm safety.”
One media sales executive, Liz Morgan, claimed to Insider that Florance — unaware his microphone was on — remarked that she looked like she was sleeping during a training session. She objected, and was fired minutes later, by her account.
Florance was described to Insider as demanding and prickly. Ex-employees said he would mock subpar sales calls during meetings, embarrassing employees. He also allegedly made several female employees feel uncomfortable with his actions and comments.
Other examples of unusual behavior reported by the website did not rise to the level of abuse. For example, during a 2019 sales conference, Florence arranged for $100,000 to be stuffed into hundreds of balloons, then dropped on the room, leading to forks flying and unmitigated chaos as Florance looked on. CoStar labeled it a “unique approach to building excitement among employees.”
In another incident, Florance reportedly shredded a stack of $20 bills to convey that CoStar rival Xceligent was burning through money; Xceligent went bankrupt in 2017 after CoStar bogged down the company with a lawsuit seeking $450 million for image and data theft. CoStar denies Florance burned U.S. currency, which would be illegal.
A few current employees came to Florance’s defense, describing him as comforting and supportive. But the picture painted by the more than 50 current and former employees interviewed by Insider is quite different.
In a previous Insider story last month, 29 current and former employees of the company accused CoStar of authoritarian practices, including surveillance and humiliation. An employee revealed that roughly 37 percent of the company left in 2021, about 75 percent by choice, a much higher attrition rate than the industry at large.
Days later, two cars were allegedly set on fire at the company headquarters. A suspect detained in the incident didn’t appear connected to the company, according to Insider.
Florence founded CoStar, a database tracking almost 6 million commercial properties across the country, in 1987. It reported net income of almost $200 million over the first three quarters of 2021.
One analyst quoted by Insider noted that problematic company culture can eventually depress financial performance. That does not appear to have happened yet to CoStar, although its once high-flying stock has fallen recently even as the broader market has risen.
[Insider] — Holden Walter-Warner