Alleged arson at CoStar headquarters leads to arrest

Suspect detained suspect after fire damages two cars, including exec’s Tesla

 Illustration of CoStar's offices at 501 South 5th Street in Richmond, Virginia (iStock, Google Maps)
Illustration of CoStar's offices at 501 South 5th Street in Richmond, Virginia (iStock, Google Maps)

A chaotic scene unfolded at the CoStar Group headquarters in Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday evening, when two cars were allegedly set on fire.

Police responded around 6:11 p.m. to a reported fire involving two cars in a garage at 501 South 5th Street, Insider reported. A suspect was detained two blocks away and no injuries were reported.

The incident occurred hours after the $26 billion behemoth announced it was increasing security at its Richmond office in light of harsh criticism of the firm on an Instagram page run by a disgruntled former employee, according to Insider.

“The safety of our employees is our number one priority, so we are relieved that no one was injured,” CoStar said in a statement. “We are grateful for the first responders and security team who ensured the fire was contained and apprehended a suspect.”

At least one of the cars had a broken rear window, according to Insider. One of the vehicles was a Tesla Model S belonging to an executive at the real estate data services firm.

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The former employee behind @costar_memes, Nate Peterson, told Commercial Observer that CoStar CEO Andy Florance was attempting “to paint the confessions and the work of the page as the work of one person because that is easier to deal with than the actual truth” of abuse and harassment at the company.

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“I am sorry he is in such a dark place, and I hope he can find a more positive purpose,” CoStar Florance said in a company memo obtained by the publication. “Some have expressed concerns that this person may pose a security risk. As a result, we have increased our security at the Richmond facility.”

Peterson took to Instagram Thursday morning to respond to the alleged arson, writing, “I just want to state for the record unequivocally that I do not advocate violence against CoStar or any CoStar personnel.”

CoStar was the subject of an Insider report Tuesday in which more than two dozen employees accused the firm of invasive surveillance and humiliation. An employee told the outlet that about 37 percent of the company’s workers left in 2021. The attrition rate well outpaced that of the industry at large.

CoStar’s stock dropped 15 percent Wednesday after the giant offered a lackluster outlook for 2022, despite reporting robust profits for the fourth quarter. But the stock was trading up 11 percent Thursday as of mid-afternoon as investors sensed a buying opportunity.

During an earnings call Tuesday, Florance downplayed criticism from current and former employees and was unapologetic about the company’s culture.

“Like any company, we have people who decide the demands of our environment is not for them, and that’s fine,” Florance said.

[Insider] — Holden Walter-Warner