Compass’ chief marketing, product execs out amid tension between Reffkin and COO Gavet: sources

Sources cited conflicting strategies in C-suite

From left: Compass CEO Robert Reffkin, Eytan Seidman, Max Henderson, Khurrum Malik and Compass COO Maëlle Gavet
From left: Compass CEO Robert Reffkin, Eytan Seidman, Max Henderson, Khurrum Malik and Compass COO Maëlle Gavet

Three of Compass’ top executives in marketing and product have resigned or been forced out of their roles in recent weeks, becoming the latest casualties of a turbulent C-suite.

Eytan Seidman, head of product, resigned last month, according to people familiar with the situation. Khurrum Malik, chief marketing officer, and Max Henderson, Compass’ vice president of product, were let go.

Sources said the latest departures stemmed from tension between CEO Robert Reffkin and COO Maelle Gavet on how to run the company — on everything from decisions marketing strategy to product development. In April, chief people officer Madan Nagaldinne and general counsel David Carp left their jobs at the firm.

In an email Wednesday afternoon to agents and staff, Reffkin portrayed the departures as part of a larger reorganization that would streamline certain departments and help the company identify new growth opportunities.

“Maëlle and I are splitting our responsibilities more clearly,” he wrote, according to a copy of the email obtained by The Real Deal. Going forward, the email said, Gavet will oversee Compass’ people and culture department, along with marketing and a new team dubbed “New Ventures” that will focus on “aftermarket opportunities” such as a vendor marketplace.

Reffkin said he plans to oversee a streamlined tech team, including product and engineering staff. The application design team will be consolidated under CTO Joseph Sirosh. “We have incredible momentum and a path to success in tech that is more clear than ever,” Reffkin wrote.

But sources challenged Reffkin’s narrative.

While Compass’ management team has endured turnover before — a common phenomenon for fast-growing startups — people familiar with the executive team said in recent months that Reffkin and Gavet have locked horns on issues big and small, making it difficult for top executives to know whose direction to take.

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Gavet, for example, was committed to building Compass’ ancillary businesses related to mortgage, title and escrow, and she hired Henderson in January to execute that vision. But without Reffkin’s buy-in, Henderson was let go this month.

Sources also said Reffkin and Gavet disagreed on Compass’ marketing strategy — with Reffkin determined to lean on agents and Gavet arguing for more direct-to-consumer marketing.

Sources said the new leadership structure is meant to prevent execs from having two bosses to report to; instead, everyone will be a direct report to either Reffkin or Gavet.

In the email Wednesday, Reffkin also announced a series of promotions. He said Matt Spangler, Compass’ chief creative officer, would now be chief brand and communications officer, while Christa Patrylak, who is vice president of media, will be vice president of digital marketing, media and measurement. Rory Golod, general manager of New York, will run the “New Ventures” group with Ashton Alexander.

Compass, which was valued at $4.4 billion after raising money from Softbank and the Qatar Investment Authority last year, was the third-largest firm on TRD‘s recent ranking of residential firms in the city, with $2.01 billion in sales last year.
Nationwide, Compass was also No. 3 on a ranking published by the research firm Real Trends, which credited the New York-based firm with $45.5 billion in 2018 sales volume. The company has more than 12,000 agents and 2,500 employees.

The latest string of departures come just three months after Carp and Nagaldinne left their respective roles at the brokerage. Carp is now working as a tech advisor, according to his LinkedIn profile. Nagaldinne, who previously worked at Amazon and Facebook, joined Blink Health, a pharmacy app, as chief people officer.

This past November, Compass hired Kristen Ankerbrandt as chief financial officer, its third CFO since 2017.