Kofi Nartey of Compass on the “Sellebrity” business and contracts with paparazzi clauses

Head of venture-backed firm's sports and entertainment division talks expansion

Kofi Nartey (courtesy of Kofi Nartey)
Kofi Nartey (courtesy of Kofi Nartey)

From actor to real estate broker and now – writer? 

Kofi Nartey got his start as an actor, but the national director of Compass’ sports and entertainment division went on to sell houses to the likes of Golden State Warrior player Nick Young and NFL veteran Marcellus Wiley. Last week, he released his first book, “Sellebrity: How to build a successful sports and entertainment based business,” which offers advice to those looking to break into the industry.

The book, which he self-published, is based on his interactions with famous clients as a broker, but is intended for a wider audience — not just the real estate industry.

Nartey has been selling luxury properties for 13 years and celebrated his one year anniversary with Compass last month. The venture-backed brokerage poached him from the Agency’s sports and entertainment division.

While the startup continues to face sharp criticism from rival firms over its poaching strategies, finances and aggressive expansion tactics, Nartey seemed unfazed. He declined to chat about how Compass has been perceived, but said when it comes to its national sports and entertainment division, things are looking up.

The division has grown to 40 agents nationwide, operating in all of Compass’ existing markets, with seven brokers based in Los Angeles. As head of the operation, Nartey now manages veteran broker Steven Shane in Aspen, whose firm was acquired by Compass last year. He also manages Ben Moss, the division’s Miami-based east coast director, who left his post as the head of One Sotheby’s sports and entertainment division in January, bringing four of his team members with him to Compass.

The Real Deal sat down with Nartey to chat about the division’s progress, his book and more.

What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always wanted to write a book. I was going to write a motivational book called focus and finish, which is based on my mantra. But the question I get asked the most — twice a week, every week — is ‘how do you get celebrity clients’? So, I figured, let me write a book about that. 

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Did the process ever become overwhelming?
At a certain point, I just thought I’d never finish. It was more about finding the time. I’m still full-time in my business, and I have a wife and two kids. It’s not like I can go on a trip to an island somewhere and lock myself up and just write. I had to squeeze it in between escrows and buyers and training agents, so that’s probably why it took more than two years.

How is this book different?
There’s no real voice for best practices when it comes to servicing and selling to sports and entertainment clients, so I wanted to write a book that also gave advice that people can actually use, not a lot of fluff. 

What’s been happening within Compass’ sports and entertainment division since you launched it last year?
We have over $1 billion in listings within the division nationally, and we’re looking to grow within the markets we’re in and markets we’re not in yet.

What were the challenges of starting the division?
The first part was just getting organized. The challenge with a lot of sports and entertainment divisions at other companies and even other industries is it’s just a label. We wanted to have highly-skilled [agents]. There’s an on-boarding process, there’s an application and that way we know everyone in the division meets the criteria to handle these kinds of clients. 

What does that entail?
I got a call from a business manager who has a high-profile musician client and they’re in a lease that they’re ready to get out of because of paparazzi. Well, we would’ve written the lease in a way that protects against that [with] an out clause. There are things we can do to better protect our clients than the average agent because they may not be dealing in this space.

With Douglas Elliman acquiring Teles Properties, do you feel it will make the market more competitive? 
The merger will not impact the specialized market of luxury properties our sports and entertainment division services.

Do you think criticism directed at Compass has impacted your business?
I do not.

Did you always want to be a real estate agent?
Growing up, I always thought I was going to be an attorney, negotiating and arguing. I thought that would be my path. In real estate, you use a lot of similar skills attorneys have to use. I get to exercise that part of my brain [of] understanding contracts, writing contracts, using the law to protect your client and negotiating.

When can we expect your second book?
You know, I definitely will do another book at some point but I don’t know when. I will have to find the time.