In May of last year, New York City residential brokerage Douglas Elliman revealed its business was at a crossroads.
“Douglas Elliman began to experience a severe decline in closed sales volume in mid-March 2020 and this continued in April and May,” read a Securities and Exchange Commission filing by Elliman’s parent company, Vector Group (Vector Group’s largest brand is cigarette manufacturer Liggett Group). “Beginning in April 2020, we made significant operating adjustments at Douglas Elliman, including a reduction of staff by approximately 25% and a reduction of all other salaries by approximately 15%. In addition, we are consolidating some office locations and are in discussions with our landlords regarding rent reductions, deferrals and holidays.”
Fast forward to today and Elliman is pitching itself as a brokerage that can compete in a market of higher agent commission splits and lower overhead. Last week the brokerage named Scott Durkin to replace Dottie Herman, who spent 17 years as firm CEO.
Durkin previously served as president and chief operating officer of Elliman. Howard Lorber, the brokerage’s longtime executive chairman, singled Durkin out for “his truly incredible performance helming the brokerage during the extremely challenging covid-19 pandemic.”
Durkin joined Elliman after 25 years at the Corcoran Group, a New York City brokerage that is part of the Realogy conglomeration. He is now leading a brokerage that made a $14 million profit in the first quarter and generated $272 million in revenue after paying agents their commission split and other expenses. Compare this to the first three months of 2020, when Elliman lost $69 million and produced $165 million in revenue.