What’s next for CBHK?

Jun.June 01, 2009 11:00 AM

Now that New York City brokerage Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy is closing its doors, what’s next for the 21-year-old, 214-agent company?

The remainder of Manhattan’s sixth-largest firm, according to a recent survey by The Real Deal, is believed to be on the auction block and priced at around $5 million. But because Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy — including its luxury marketing division Coldwell Banker Previews International — allegedly owes some $12 million, the price would presumably go toward its debt.

Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy is by far the largest Manhattan company to close so far, with offices at 555 Madison Avenue, 329 Columbus Avenue, 64 West 21st Street and 155 Seventh Avenue in Park Slope.

JoAnne Kennedy, the firm’s COO, did not respond to requests for comment, but sources said she will be relocated within the Realogy Corporation.

In a company-wide memo obtained by The Real Deal, Kennedy told brokers: “As the economy continues to stammer and hopefully settle down, as our industry is shifting, we have a plan for all of us to move together to continue our careers.”

She continued: “If you ‘follow me,’ all of your listings will go with you, as well as your data. You will have an opportunity to interview before making a final decision.”

She emphasized that brokers would be able to keep their commissions. “Everyone will be paid every cent they are due,” she wrote. “The money belongs to you.”

The Corcoran Group’s CEO Pamela Liebman dismissed rumors that the mid-sized brokerage will be absorbed into Corcoran, which shares ties with Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy to New Jersey-based Realogy.

Corcoran’s parent company is NRT, a subsidiary of Realogy, which also owns international real estate company Coldwell Banker. But Realogy, not NRT, operates Coldwell Banker franchises such as Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy.

“There is no formal incorporation of Coldwell Banker agents into Corcoran,” Liebman said. “This is not a purchase by NRT.”

When asked whether Kennedy would be hired by Corcoran and would bring CBHK agents with her, Liebman said she had no comment.

Known originally as Hunt Kennedy, the company was founded in 1988 by William Morris Hunt III and Kennedy, the current COO. It specialized in high-end properties on the Upper East and West sides.

In February 1996, Hunt Kennedy joined forces with David Michonski and international real estate company Coldwell Banker, which has some 3,500 offices worldwide, to create a New York-based, wholly owned franchised affiliate known as Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy.

Real estate firms generally do not fetch high prices because they have few assets, said Paul Purcell, head of Charles Rutenberg Realty in New York and a partner at real estate consultancy Braddock + Purcell.

“You’re buying a name and people, but you’re not buying assets,” Purcell said.

The firm likely struggled in a market with “very little deal volume,” and because the Coldwell Banker name carries little weight in Manhattan, he said.

Just last month, Kennedy told The Real Deal that many New Yorkers “associate the Coldwell Banker logo with the suburbs.” At the time, she said the company’s high-end Coldwell Banker Previews International arm was helping the brand gain traction in New York City.

It appears to have been too little, too late.

“I hate seeing it happen,” Purcell said of the company’s closure. “It doesn’t bode well for any of us.”

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