Kaye/Bassman Managing Director Jeff Wittenberg Appeared in The Real Deal, Realogy’s realignment

Realogy’s realignment

New CEO Ryan Schneider starts off with a C-suite shakeup, but can he jump-start the residential behemoth’s stalled revenue growth?
By E.B. Solomont | February 01, 2018 11:00AM

In 1996, when Richard Smith took the helm of Realogy, the housing bubble was in its infancy; there was no such thing as Zillow; and the concept of a startup brokerage with unicorn status was both inconceivable and 17 years off.

Having weathered all of the above — and then some — the veteran chief executive passed the baton on Jan. 1 to Ryan Schneider, a banking executive who’s vowed to accelerate the company’s turnaround.

For Realogy — a $5.8 billion goliath in the residential brokerage space — the handoff comes at a critical time, as industry stalwarts face unprecedented competition from new players. That’s impacted many of the company’s brands, including the Corcoran Group (which closed the highest dollar volume of Manhattan sell-side deals in 2017), Coldwell Banker, Sotheby’s International Realty and Citi Habitats.

New York-based Compass, for example, which raised $450 million from Softbank in December, has vowed to be in 20 major U.S. cities by 2020. Meanwhile, the Seattle-based Redfin, a low-cost tech brokerage, went public in a closely watched IPO last summer.

With such well-funded competitors nipping at Realogy’s heels, Schneider has zeroed in on harnessing technology and data to boost agent productivity.

“We are going to be relentlessly focused on agents,” he said late last month at the Inman Connect NYC conference in Manhattan.

He argued that Realogy has access to more data than its competitors, and that data can be turned into a “suite of things we can do for our agents.”

“I believe we have the scale and resources to do that,” he added. “If we don’t keep up, we will fall behind.”

Still, the high stakes of today’s landscape made Schneider’s appointment all the more surprising.

It’s highly unusual for such a major company to hire someone from outside the industry, said Jeff Wittenberg, managing director of Kaye/Bassman, an executive search firm in Texas. “To go outside the industry, in this case, is, I think, a pretty bold move.”

But several sources said Schneider may be just the silver bullet Realogy needs.

“Realogy is facing a number of strategic challenges … Despite a rally this year, the stock has underperformed broader housing-related peers,” Michael Dahl, a Barclays analyst, wrote in October, just after Schneider was named to the post. “Against this backdrop, our initial thought is that going with an outsider, all else [being] equal, is a positive.”

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