Day in the Life Of: Kathy Korte

The Sotheby’s CEO on dreams of being a spy, jet setting around the world and the Green Bay Packers

Kathy Korte
Kathy Korte (Photo: Tobias Truvillion)

Kathy Korte sits at the top of the Sotheby’s International Realty food chain, overseeing 42 offices and more than 1,800 brokers and agents globally. TRD’s latest residential firm ranking found that the firm’s two NYC offices had $1.4 billion of listing, 231 brokers and an average listings price of roughly $8.8 million. Korte, 53, joined Sotheby’s in 1984 as an administrative assistant, fresh out of Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania. She rose through the ranks and, in 2006, was named president and CEO. Needless to say, the job is fast-paced and Korte — who lives in New Providence, New Jersey — is often jet setting to Sotheby’s locations around the globe. She takes at least two trips a month and aims to attend at least two sales meetings a year in each office. And she is one half of a Sotheby’s powerhouse team: Her husband, Philip White, runs Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates globally. She also has two stepchildren.

5:30 a.m. I get on the treadmill down the hall from my bedroom. I try for a steady three-mile jog, which takes about 40 minutes.

7:15 a.m. I hop on a train from New Jersey to our main office [at 38 East 61st Street]. After going through my emails and the Wall Street Journal on the train, I read legal thrillers, like “The Bone Tree” by Greg Isles. If I hadn’t gone into real estate, I would’ve been a lawyer. We’re always careful that we’re doing things legally and acceptably. Having that legal understanding can help you make the right business decision. Espionage fiction also intrigues me. I want to be a spy in my next life.

Day in the Life Of: Kathy Korte8:30 a.m. I arrive at the office and have my second cup of coffee. I try to have yogurt or some cottage cheese and fruit to get a little bit of protein. I look through all of our transactions for the past day: new listings, closed deals and listings that went under contract. There could also be referrals going from New York to Palm Beach or Los Angeles, for example. I may pick up the phone and say to a manager, ‘Hey, I can’t believe my agent Downtown just placed a referral in Lake Geneva for 80 million euros.’

10:30 a.m. I meet with brokers and their clients. I recently met with Nikki Field, her team and the Kushners to review our plans for the Puck Building in Soho, which we’re marketing. We discussed the prospective clients and possible challenges. Everyone has different taste. Some say the units are not big enough, or families with little kids don’t want the terraces. In one instance, a divorce has to be finalized before one of the parties can move forward with purchasing a unit. I think we’re going to see Penthouse 2 [asking $35.1 million] pop any day now.

12:30 p.m. Lunch is a moving target. Most of the week, I go out with brokers, because I need to hear what’s happening on the street. My favorite places are Fred’s at Barney’s and Amaranth [on East 62nd Street]. Doubles, a club at the Sherry-Netherland, is nice for taking people who want something more private. Based on talking to brokers, there’s good morale in just about every market we’re in. There’s just not enough inventory throughout the U.S. We could be driving more business if we had more listings.

Day in the Life Of: Kathy Korte2:00 p.m. I have a conference call with some of my 38 managers to talk about recruiting. Perhaps our manager in Southampton could help the manager in Soho, because she has a connection. We have high-caliber agents, but the door is open for agents we think could work well with the Sotheby’s brand.

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4:00 p.m. California has had time to wake up. I check in with Frank Symons, our chief operating officer, who oversees all operations on the West Coast. We work closely with Sotheby’s auction house [the firm’s parent company], which will often pitch the art consignment for a seller and we will pitch the real estate. Recently, we sold a client’s Manhattan townhouse for $7.5 million and the auction house sold one of their Cezanne paintings for $41 million. We talked about doing a joint marketing proposal for a property in Los Angeles with the auction house. So many of the trends in real estate begin in California … you’ve got to have your ear to the ground to know what’s coming next.


Nobu’s Miso Black Cod

6:30 p.m. I attend events we hold at Sotheby’s auction house. In April, we sponsored an event with them called the Designer Showcase. Or I have dinner with friends, my brokers’ managers, auction house colleagues, clients, or my niece, who works at Morgan Stanley. My go-to dinners in the city are the black cod with miso and sashimi salad at Nobu and Dover sole at Antonucci Café.

7:30 p.m. If I have nothing going on in the city, I’ll head home by car service or train. The best thing in the world is having dinner at home. My cats greet me at the door. I marinate the halibut and prepare the lemon butter sauce, salad and rice. My husband throws the halibut on the grill.

Aaron-Rodgers9:00 p.m. I’m an early bird. I try to get in bed now, if I’m not on an overseas call. I recently spoke to two agents who are marketing their properties at the Sotheby’s spring auction in Hong Kong. There is still a lot of interest from Asian buyers to move their money into the U.S. Many of them are buying and leaving the units vacant for now, not even renting them out. It used to be all about the rental. It doesn’t have to be an investment, or have an immediate return. Afterward, I like to unwind by watching “House of Cards.” The minute football starts, I’ll watch any game. My family is from the Midwest and I was a Green Bay Packers fan growing up.