Brokers’ winding paths

Talent twists and turns as NYC residential firms poach from each other

Dec.December 01, 2014 07:00 AM

Brokers aren’t the kind of people who sit still. Whether they’re showing properties, meeting with developers or “networking” at a boozy industry event, brokers are constantly on the go. And that often means switching companies.

While it’s true that the employment pool is a naturally fluid one — as independent contractors, brokers aren’t tied to their jobs the way W2-employees are — there are times when it seems like one could make a tidy sum printing up new business cards.

Under certain conditions, one firm can be the hot place to be, drawing in top talent from competitors across the city. Other circumstances can make a brokerage seem more like a sinking ship.

The startup, tech-centric Urban Compass, for example, made the push into the sales side of the business late last year, and since poached talent like Douglas Elliman star-broker Leonard Steinberg and Brown Harris Stevens’ Kyle Blackmon.

Other attention-grabbing moves included longtime Elliman pro Avi Voda, who left the company after 18 years to co-found his own firm, Voda Bauer Real Estate.

Voda, like other leaders of newly started firms in the city, has been knee-deep in recruiting efforts, bringing his firm to nearly 40 strong since launching in April.

He said he’s hiring brokers who are looking for a place where they can grow.

“It’s my job to help them and show them how to get to the next level,” he said.

Elliman itself has been recruiting heavily, particularly from rival Town Residential, which started bleeding brokers amid a power struggle earlier this year between co-founders Andrew Heiberger and Joseph Sitt.

“They’re trying to get the rainmakers,” Voda said of Elliman’s recruiting efforts. “They’re trying to get the top talent.”

Heiberger said the “Town in turmoil” narrative was a convenient tool used by his competitors, but discredited the idea it was the reason brokers decided to leave.

“While it is no secret that there was a six-week dispute between the principals of Town, the handful of agents that chose to leave did not cite that as a reason,” he claimed in an email.

Heiberger and Sitt eventually buried the hatchet, and Town is back in expansion mode.

And then there’s the case of Corcoran which, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, has lost a number of high-profile brokers over the past several months.

Below, in alphabetical order, The Real Deal takes a look at 25 of the most noteworthy broker moves in the past year.

1. Paul Anand – from Corcoran to Brown Harris Stevens (October)
Anand was a top broker at Corcoran who once held the exclusive forthecity’s priciest townhouse, a$114million homeat12 East 69th Street he co-listed with Corcoran’s Gabriella Dufwa. Anand has a list of clients including athletes and celebrities. He brought with him to BHS members of his team, including Agnes Beaugendre, Sharon Elbaz, Ashley Fitterer and Timea Greenberg. Anand ranked 31st on TRD’s list of the top 75 Manhattan brokers this year.

2. Frank Arends and Daniela Zakarya – from Town Residential to Douglas Elliman (March)
Partners Arends and Zakarya were top producers at Town when they returned to their former firm, Elliman. The move came shortly after Town owners Heiberger and Sitt settled their legal spat, which Arends called “toxic.”

Kyle Blackmon

Kyle Blackmon

3. Kyle Blackmon – from Brown Harris Stevens to Urban Compass (November)
Blackmon holds the distinction of selling New York City’s priciest apartment: Citigroup chairman Sandy Weill’s penthouse at 15 Central Park West, which Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev bought for $88 million in 2012. Blackmon’s departure was one of the biggest from BHS in a decade, prompting President Hall Willkie to declare “the equity proposition offered to him trumps a singular focus on brokerage.” Blackmon ranked 24th on TRD’s top-broker list this year.

4. Julia Boland – from Halstead Property to William Raveis (September) 
Boland spent seven years at Halstead, where her team was named the company’s top new development mar- keting broker for 2012. She joined William Raveis in September about six months after the firm set up shop in Manhattan, to launch its new development division. She also came in at the No. 57 spot of TRD’s ranking of the top Manhattan agents.

5. Bill Cunningham – from Corcoran to Trump International Realty (May)
After joining Corcoran as an agent in 2001, Cunningham rose to become manager of the firm’s busiest office, 660 Madison Avenue, where he oversaw nearly 400 brokers. He joined the Trump Organization as president of its brokerage arm, overseeing offices in NYC, Westchester, Chicago, Miami and Charlotte, North Carolina.

6. Mary Anne Fusco – from Douglas Elliman to Town Residential (January)
Fusco was a top producer at Elliman, and was an executive vice president when she left the company after eight years. Over the course of her career, which started at Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy, she has logged more than 1,000 transactions totaling more than $400 million in sales.

7. Jay Glazer – from Warburg Realty to Urban Compass (June)
Glazer, who was named one of Warburg’s top brokers in 2013, cited Steinberg’s move to Urban Compass as one of the factors that drew him from Warburg. “He’s incredibly well respected in the industry, so it definitely added an appeal. It brought a gravitas that was very compelling,” Glazer told TRD.

8. Michael Guerra – from Douglas Elliman to Warburg Realty (April)
Guerra joined Warburg as a sales director to lead the firm’s expansion into Brooklyn. He had previously served as a managing director and executive vice president at Elliman, where he grew the Brooklyn division from one to five offices.

Douglas Heddings

Douglas Heddings

9. Douglas Heddings – from Heddings Property Group Core (July)
Heddings founded his own residential brokerage in 2010 after leaving Rutenberg Realty. The company had around 40 agents at its peak, but went through a period of downsizing last year. Core absorbed HPG when it hired Heddings over the summer.

10. Roy Kim – from Extell Development to Urban Compass (July)
As Extell’s design chief, Kim worked on projects such as One57 and the Carlton House before heading to Urban Compass to build its new development marketing arm. Prior to his eight years at Extell, Kim was the director of pre-development at Corcoran Sunshine and worked on design teams for starchitects including Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid.

11. Debra LaChance – from Corcoran to Urban Compass (September)
LaChance and her team — Denise LaChance, Ariel Brenner, Betsey Kane Margolies and Kimberlee Knecht — ran a boutique division within Corcoran specializing in new developments. The team was named number 43 out of the top 250 in the country by the Wall Street Journal and Real Trends in 2012, with $102.9 million worth of closed transactions.

12. Patty LaRocco – from Town Residential to Douglas Elliman (February)
LaRocco brought her five-person team back to Elliman, where she had previously spent eight years before moving to Town in 2012. Before the move, her StreetEasy profile labeled her Town’s No. 1 Downtown broker.

13. Fabienne Lecole – from Corcoran to William Raveis (September)
Lecole won a number of accolades during her 13 years at Corcoran. She was named to the 2014 President’s Council, whic hrecognizes the firm’s top 2 percent of producers, and won the  2009 and 2012 salesperson of the year awards for Corcoran’s Carnegie Hill office.

14. Eugene Litvak – from Citi Habitats to Urban Compass (September)
Litvak’s team was Citi Habitats’ team of the year for over- all production and rentals for 2013. Urban Compass in September hired the 10-person team to spearhead open- ing a Brooklyn office within six months. The move came amid a legal dispute in which Citi Habitats accused Urban Compass of accessing its proprietary listings database and possibly using the data to poach top agents.

15. Elaine Mayers – from Citi Habitats to Town Residential (August)
Mayers won numerous awards during her eight years at Citi Habitats including Top Sales Agent and Top Listings Agent for several years. She said “it’s time to make a change,” when she announced the move to Town. Team members Carol Nemeroff, Talia Schor and Joe Snyder moved along with her.

16. Brett Miles – from Town to Douglas Elliman (September)
Miles’ move to Elliman comes after he went over to Town in 2010 from Brown Harris Stevens with partner Susan Green. Green decided to stay put when he left for Elliman. The duo ranked No. 48 on TRD’s list of top brokers earlier this year, with more than $95 million in exclusive listings.

Lauren Muss17. Lauren Muss – from Corcoran t0 Douglas Elliman (September)
Muss was named Corcoran’s Individual Salesperson of the Year in 2010 and 2013. “It was a very hard decision,” she said of the choice to leave for Elliman. “I was the poster girl for Corcoran.”

18. Richard Nassimi – from Corcoran to the Nassimi Group (April)
Nassimi brought two members of his team from Corcoran, Maria Ienna and Silvia Reyero, when he left to start his own eponymous firm. He had previ- ously been the head of sales at the W Downtown, where he was replaced last year by the Marketing Directors. His company’s website has a number of resale listings in the building.

19. Jarrod Guy Randolph – from JGR Property Group to Town Residential (September)
Named one of the industry’s fastest-rising stars under the age of 35 by TRD earlier this year, Randolph was a top producer at Core when he struck out on his own in June to start JGR Property Group. That experiment was short-lived, and he shut down the fledgling shop fewer than four months later to join Town, as an agent in the firm’s Flatiron office.

20. Shlomi Reuveni – from Brown Harris Stevens to Town Residential (April)
Reuveni left his job as head of BHS’ new development marketing team to take the reins as Town’s managing director of new development. Reuveni was the first big hire for Town following a wave of defectors in the wake of the legal dispute between Sitt and Heiberger.

Shlomi Reuveni

Shlomi Reuveni

21. Michael Signet – from Bond New York to Douglas Elliman (July)
Signet had been the sales director overseeing all of Bond’s offices since he joined the company in 2005. He joined Elliman as head of its 774 Broadway office, managing about 80 agents.

22. Leonard Steinberg and Hervé Senequier – Douglas Elliman to Urban Compass (June)
The partners’ Luxury Loft Team was a perennial powerhouse at Elliman, coming in at the No. 6 spot in TRD’s ranking of top brokers this year with $332 million in exclusive listings. In a blog post, Steinberg said he saw “the future” in Urban Compass, where he is now president of the tech-centric firm. Senequier is the company’s vice president of strategic development.

23. Avi Voda – from Douglas Elliman to Voda Bauer Real Estate (April)
Voda stepped down as an executive vice president at Elliman after 18 years with the company to launch his own firm with co-founder Jason Bauer (who was also a founder of Crumbs Bake Shop). The company was tapped as WeWork’s official residential real estate partner, giving the firm first crack at thousands of potential tenants who may be new to the city and looking for a place to live.

Leonard Steinberg and Hervé Senequier

Leonard Steinberg and Hervé Senequier

24. Janet Wilkinson – from Corcoran to Keller Williams NYC (February)
Wilkinson spent 17 years on Wall Street before joining Corcoran, where she was named 2010’s Rookie of the Year. She made the jump between firms with her partner, Susan LeFevre.

25. Takeshi “Takk” Yamaguchi – from Town Residential to Urban Compass (February)
Yamaguchi was another Town departure amid the company’s internal power struggle. He had exclusively represented more than $100 million worth of listings when he left for Urban Compass, taking on management of the sponsor units at the Corinthian, the white-glove condominium tower at 330 East 38th Street in Murray Hill.

Not everyone in real estate is selling it, but their contributions help move properties nonetheless. Here are two big behind-the-scenes hires that caught attention this year: 

1. Nicole Oge – from Town Residential to Douglass Elliman (April/June)
Oge, a former marketing executive for Mercedes-Benz, spent three years at Town before leaving the company in April. In June, she joined Elliman, and Town sued her for violating her non-com- pete clause, and in August the judge on the case ruled the marketing director could not perform real estate marketing services for Elliman in Manhattan for two years. The judge denied an injunction Town had sought preventing Oge from sharing trade secrets she had gleaned during her time at the company.

2. Sofia Song – from StreetEasy to Urban Compass (February)
Song, the former head of research and communications for StreetEasy, left the company after more than six years amid significant turnover after its purchase by Zillow. She joined Urban Compass to create con- sumer- and industry-facing reports in the newly created position of head of research and external affairs.


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