Exodus at WB May

At least 20 William B. May agents have defected from the company since the departure of president Peter Marra in April, and the firm may be on its way to new ownership as well.

The agents have departed for Brown Harris Stevens after Brown Harris Stevens hired Marra and its holding company bought his minority shares in William B. May, the company he had headed for 15 years.

Meanwhile, a number of top executives said the depleted William B. May is in the process of being purchased by an individual who also owns the franchise rights for Century 21 in Manhattan.

If the sale happens, it will be the latest example of a national conglomerate making its way into the New York residential real estate marketplace, and will highlight the further consolidation that could lie ahead for the industry.

Both Marra and the 20 agents leaving William B. May for Brown Harris Stevens are working in a new office that Brown Harris Stevens opened last month.

The new 5,000-square-foot, ground floor office at Madison Avenue and 84th Street is Brown Harris Stevens first retail sales office. The firm has another Upper East Side office at 655 Madison Avenue.

Ruth McCoy, executive vice-president at Brown Harris Stevens, said the office has 40 brokers, including the arrivals from William B. May. Marra heads the new office, which has flat-screen televisions in its windows broadcasting Brown Harris Stevens listings to passers-by.

McCoy also said last month that nothing has changed regarding Terra Holdings (Brown Harris Stevens parent company) ownership of William B. May after it purchased Marra s stake in the company. The purchase amounts to a 20 percent share of William B. May s operations in Manhattan and a 50 percent stake of the company s Brooklyn operations.

May family members had said earlier that they would thwart any takeover attempts by Terra, and that Marra s shares amounted to only 10 to 12 percent of the company.

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Meanwhile, William B. May also lost star broker Roger Erickson to Sotheby s around the same time Marra left.

Erickson, who was senior managing director at William B. May, now holds the title of senior managing director at Sotheby s. His recent deals include selling Steve Jobs penthouse in the San Remo to Bono, and other high profile transactions.

Erickson said he had been recruited by Sotheby s before learning about Marra s departure.

“Prior to anything coming out about the shares being sold, a month or six weeks prior, I had lunch with a Sotheby s broker,” which eventually led to a job offer, Erickson said. “My decision to leave didn t have anything to do with the sale of Peter s shares.”

It did speed up the transition to the new company, however.

“The hardest part was going to be talking to Peter, but then I found out he was leaving, and it made it easier,” Erickson said.

In late April, following Marra s departure, William B. May named Roberta Benzilio interim president.

Benzilio, who has been an employee of William B. May for 21 years, most recently served as executive vice president.

“Having just achieved our strongest first-quarter earnings yet, it is business as usual at William B. May,” she maintained.