What’s behind the recent exits at Corcoran?

High-profile brokers explain why they left firm

From left: Fabienne Lecole, Debra LaChance and Lauren Muss
From left: Fabienne Lecole, Debra LaChance and Lauren Muss

Amid increasing competition among brokerages, the Corcoran Group has lost a number of high-profile agents to rival firms in recent months.

Most recently, Corcoran veteran Fabienne Lecole jumped to William Raveis’ new office in New York City, which is headed by real estate veterans Kathy Braddock and Paul Purcell. In September, the five-person LaChance Team left Corcoran for Urban Compass, while top broker Lauren Muss decamped to Douglas Elliman.

“It was a very hard decision. I was the poster girl for Corcoran,” said Muss, who closed $80 million in sales in 2013 and over $1 billion in her career.

Muss offered up a couple of reasons why she left Corcoran. She pointed to Elliman’s new alliance with Knight Frank Residential. She also said she was eager to work on new development marketing and resales. At Corcoran, new development marketing is mostly handled by the Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group.

“I think the market is changing,” Muss said. “I felt there were opportunities I was missing that were available here for me.”

Corcoran didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The firm remains the second-largest brokerage in the city, with 1,191 agents, up 9 percent from last year, according to The Real Deal’s annual ranking of top brokerages. This year, Corcoran has seen its listing volume rise to $3.4 billion, up from $2.1 billion in 2013, according to a TRD analysis, which was based on data gathered from the OLR listing portal in March 2014.

Nonetheless, Lecole, who joined Corcoran in 2001 and was among the firm’s top 2 percent of producers in 2013, said she was acutely aware of her independent contractor status. “Every day I had a reminder that my business comes from myself, I don’t have a real plan,” she said.

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At William Raveis, Lecole said she will have a team so that she can focus on pitching clients – something she did not have at Corcoran. She’ll also have mentors in Braddock and Purcell, who have already helped her develop a long-term marketing strategy. “As much as I love Corcoran, we are about 1,800 brokers,” Lecole said. “It’s not the same equation.”

In the past, such departures from firms have typical come in batches every few years, and sometimes one jump by a broker can inspire others.  Leonard Steinberg’s move this summer to Urban Compass from Douglas Elliman, for example, prompted a string of others to follow him.

In September, Urban Compass nabbed three teams (or 11 agents total) from Corcoran: the LaChance Team, headed by Debra and Denise LaChance, as well as Jesse Shafer and Greg McHale’s Shafer-McHale Team and Stacey Froelich’s Froelich Team.

Debra LaChance said Urban Compass offered her and her team the chance to advance their careers. “This was the opportunity for me to take a next step,” said LaChance, who will be managing director of boutique development at Urban Compass.

LaChance also noted that she was attracted to Urban Compass’ entrepreneurial and collaborative culture. “Here [agents] have a very strong, loud voice,” she said. “It’s very much listened to and acted upon.”


Bill Cunningham

Other high-profile departures this year include Corcoran veteran Bill Cunningham, an executive manager director at the firm, who was tapped in May to head up Trump International Realty. Cunningham previously ran Corcoran’s main East Side office for seven years. In addition, Brennan Zahler left Corcoran to run leasing at Town Residential’s Fifth Avenue office. And in April, Richard Nassimi, a former head of sales at the W Downtown and at the Cipriani Club Residences at 55 Wall Streetexited Corcoran to start his own firm, The Nassimi Group.

Changes in the market have also prompted  some of the defections. Lecole noted that the inventory crunch has intensified competition to get deals done.

“It’s hard,” she said, explaining that she thinks William Raveis is giving her a leg up. “Instead of being just a broker, I feel like I’m becoming a businessperson with a plan.”