Two months after Compass deal, Stribling’s seeing a string of departures

The boutique brokerage says "you expect some departures”

Fom left: Robert Reffkin, Elizabeth F. Stribling, Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan, and Compass COO Maelle Gavet; Inset, from left: Linda Maloney and Megan Scott
From left: Robert Reffkin, Elizabeth F. Stribling, Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan, and Compass COO Maelle Gavet; Inset, from left: Linda Maloney and Megan Scott

UPDATE, Friday May 31, 2019, 1:07 p.m.: Linda Maloney was the first longtime agent to move.

The broker, who started her career on Wall Street before joining Stribling in 2002, sold $50 million worth of real estate last year.

“Had Compass not bought us, I probably would have stayed there forever,” she said.

Instead, she’s among at least 10 agents and employees who have exited the boutique brokerage since the acquisition by venture-capital-backed Compass last month.

The list of agents leaving include Megan Duryea Scott, Merrill Curtis, Amanda Cannon Goldworm and Nancy Tela are Sotheby’s International Realty-bound; Nancy Piraquive, who left for Brown Harris Stevens; and Mike Chapman and Amanda Miller Rothlein, who moved to Douglas Elliman.

On the management side, the brokerage’s former director of advertising Brian Shahwan and chief data officer Garrett Derderian are now at CORE Real Estate, while Sarah Alvarez, Stribling’s director of referrals, is leaving the brokerage business altogether to try her hand at mortgage banking.

Stribling’s director of communications Ashley Murphy downplayed the departures. “I don’t think it was unexpected. You expect some departures,” she said. Pointing to the firm’s roughly 300-person headcount, she noted that, “if you look at the total, we actually have a really good retention rate.”

Murphy confirmed that everyone reportedly departing Stribling did receive offers to stay from Compass, but they ultimately “felt this was the opportunity to get into something new and different.”

Maloney said her decision to leave didn’t stem from any negativity about Compass, which was most recently valued at $4.4 billion, but said the acquisition was the push she needed to re-energize her career. She said she cried when she told company president Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan that she’d be leaving. “[But] it’s time for me to reinvent the wheel a little bit,” said Maloney, who works primarily on the Upper East Side and Upper West Side. After getting calls from several firms, she chose Sotheby’s because it shared the same high-end appeal and wasn’t too big. “I never saw myself in a big firm,” said Maloney, who also said she was drawn to Sotheby’s international presence.

Derderian, who built Stribling’s proprietary database and established its regular market reports, echoed Maloney in explaining why he decided to head to CORE.

He wanted to be part of a “small team” with “national and global exposure” where he could “build out a best-in class research department.”

“The opportunity really lies in being able to expand that,” he said.

Derderian briefly worked as a data and research analyst for Compass about three years ago. He said he decided to leave Stribling after meeting with CORE’s founder and CEO Shaun Osher after news of the acquisition broke last month. He said the move was “about the opportunity.”

Scott, who also shifted to Sotheby’s, declined to elaborate on the circumstances of her departure, but noted “we all loved our time at Stribling.”

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Compass struck a deal to buy Stribling on April 1, but it’s taken several weeks to iron out details of the arrangement — specifically around the Stribling name. After veteran agents balked at losing the Stribling brand, the companies considered several iterations — including Stribling Private Brokerage at Compass — before settling on “Stribling at Compass.” The new black-and-white logo was circulated last week.

Sources familiar with the acquisition have said a transition to the new brand will be complete in the next few months. Long-term plans for Stribling’s office footprint are less clear, however Murphy said that “as far as I know everything is staying status quo.”

Just prior to inking the deal with Compass, Stribling had four offices — at 924 Madison Avenue, 340 West 23rd Street, 32 Sixth Avenue and 386 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Murphy confirmed to The Real Deal that all offices were “in tact” with no plans to change.

But it appears the Chelsea office — which Elizabeth Stribling bought in 1989 for an undisclosed sum — was not part of the transaction. Records show Stribling & Associates Ltd. transferred ownership of the property to Clement Clark Stribling LLC on April 1, just days before the deal was announced. Elizabeth Stribling controls both entities, according to the deed.

Speaking to Stribling’s office mood, Murphy described sentiment toward Compass as “generally, really, really enthusiastic.”

Rory Golod, Compass’ New York general manager, said that he believes it’s not the VC-backed brokerage that’s driving the departures. “It’s what big companies represent,” he said.

But he maintains that “the things that people loved about Stribling aren’t changing… Their managers are still their managers.” But now Stribling agents also have access to Compass’ technology and other resources — a reality he called an “incredibly potent combination.”

“The beauty of this is it’s the best of both worlds,” he said.

Compass executives, including Golod and occasionally CEO Rob Reffkin, have met with managers and agents at Stribling in both office-wide and individual meetings to discuss their future in the merged company, according to Murphy. Stribling agents are also getting onboarded to Compass’ marketing and technology platforms, which Murphy said they are “really curious and excited” about, though she noted “there is a learning curve.”

But the reaction hasn’t been uniformly positive: Leading Real Estate Companies of the World severed its relationship with Stribling after the announcement. (Just last month, LeadingRE recognized Stribling for being one of the firms with the most outgoing revenue-generating referrals.)

Murphy acknowledged “there are always growing pains” in the merging of two firms and noted that “Compass is a very different company than Stribling.” But she said “they’re trying to preserve the culture that Stribling had” and said the differences won’t prevent them from collaborating.

At Compass, Stribling’s founder, Elizabeth “Libba” Stribling, is advising its new development division. Elizabeth Ann Stribling-Kivlan declined to comment.

Editor’s Note: Clarification made to the relationship between Sotheby’s agents Megan Duryea Scott, Merrill Curtis and Amanda Cannon Goldworm in the fifth and fourteenth paragraph. They work together as partners, not as a team. Updated to include comment from Compass and corrected spelling of Amanda Miller Rothlein’s name.