Compass makes good on diversity pledge, adding Charles Phillips to board

Software exec’s appointment means firm’s board now 50% Black

Compass CEO Robert Reffkin and Charles Phillips (Photos via Flickr; Getty)
Compass CEO Robert Reffkin and Charles Phillips (Photos via Flickr; Getty)

UPDATED: Sept. 29, 10:50 a.m.: Compass, making good on a call for companies to diversify their boards, has tapped software executive Charles Phillips as an independent director.

Phillips, a former president of Oracle, is the third independent director to join Compass’ board. His addition makes the board 50 percent Black. Women comprise one-third of the board.

In a statement, Compass Chairman Ori Allon said Phillips’ depth of experience adds an “authoritative voice” as the firm continues to grow. Despite Covid’s impact, Compass said business is rebounding — fueling speculation that the SoftBank-backed brokerage could be eyeing an IPO sooner rather than later.

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Phillips, who rose to captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, is the former CEO and chairman of Infor, a cloud-computing software company acquired by Koch Industries in February. In addition to his time at Oracle, he served as a managing director in Morgan Stanley’s technology group. He also served on the boards of Viacom, the Apollo Theater, New York Policy Foundation, Federal Reserve Bank of New York and President Barack Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Phillips acknowledged Compass’ role in real estate’s slow embrace of technology. “Every sector of the economy is undergoing an accelerated digital metamorphosis and that change has finally arrived in real estate,” he said.

Since 2012, Compass has raised more than $1.5 billion from investors. The company was last valued at $6.4 billion, a figure that prompted rivals to question whether its valuation was overblown. To date, Compass has 18,000 agents, who sold $91.3 billion worth of real estate last year, according to research firm Real Trends.

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In recent years, tech companies have been racing to diversify their boards. In 2018, California passed landmark legislation requiring public companies to have women on their boards. Calls for racial diversity in corporate America gained intensity this spring after the killing of George Floyd.

This spring, Zillow was among the 40 companies that signed onto the Board Challenge, a commitment to add a Black director within a year. Redfin, which already has a black director, signed on as a supporter.

Compass CEO Robert Reffkin, who spoke publicly about experiencing racism, called for systemic change and expanded opportunity — specifically on corporate boards. “Only 8 percent of corporate board members are black,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “If we work together, we can continue to work towards economic equality for Black America.”

Compass also committed to having at least one Black person on teams “directly advising” the brokerage.

In February, the firm named Pamela Thomas-Graham, who also sits on the boards of Peloton and Clorox, as the first independent member of its board. In April it added Eileen Murray, former co-CEO of Bridgewater Associates.

Like many firms, Compass is working its way back from major economic uncertainty this spring. In March, the company said it expected a 50 percent drop in revenue over the next six months and it laid off 15 percent of its staff — or roughly 375 employees.

A quicker-than-expected housing rebound, however, has changed those projections. Compass said it saw record revenue in June, July and August.