Barbara Corcoran, a live wire in the New York City real estate scene, is leaving the company she founded to channel all of her energy into television productions.
Corcoran, who launched The Corcoran Group with a $1,000 loan in 1978, has watched her company grow to one of the top residential real estate companies in New York City, with 45 offices and 2,000 sales associates. Last year the company closed $9 billion in sales volume.
The company still retains Corcoran’s distinct fingerprint, even after she sold it to brokerage giant NRT Inc. in 2001. Corcoran has served as chairman of the company since the sale, though she announced Friday that she will be stepping down from this role on Nov. 15.
For the past six months Corcoran said she has been splitting time between television production and real estate work, and she decided it was time to go full throttle with her television production company, Barbara Corcoran Productions.
Her mom was the first one to know about her career turn. “She said, ‘What a relief — it’s about time you’re getting on with your life,'” Corcoran said.
Pamela Liebman, president and CEO of The Corcoran Group since 2000, will continue to lead the company. Corcoran hired Liebman as a broker 20 years ago.
“Barbara Corcoran’s rise to the top of the New York City residential real estate industry is legendary and The Corcoran Group is a testament to her forward-thinking leadership,” Liebman said. “Barbara pioneered so much that is taken for granted today: co-brokering, market reports, press visibility and keeping a human face on real estate. The Corcoran Group will continue to carry on Barbara’s tradition of inspiring creativity and success.”
NRT, a part of travel and real estate services giant Cendant Corp., also owns offices under other major brands, including Coldwell Banker, ERA and Sotheby’s.
Corcoran has a few real estate-related reality television shows in the works, though she’s not certain which of them will actually make it into final production. “I’ll probably do the best two out of three,” she said. Another program she is working on is all about “pure entrepreneurship,” she said.
In the reality programs, Corcoran said she’ll serve as an expert — and in one of the shows she has a central role.
Real estate is very much on peoples’ brains these days, she said, and homes have become like ATM machines for people as real estate values have surged in some parts of the country. “Right now everyone thinks it’s the ‘Golden Goose’ of the country,” she said. But even if the market conditions change, real estate will remain an important focus for consumers.
“What attracts people more than having the rug pulled out from under their feet? Problems make good television,” she said. And if the market doesn’t stay strong, people — a lot of people — will be looking for help with their real estate problems. And that’s where television programs can help, she said. “There is a huge fertile ground for that.”
Corcoran said she realized it was time to focus on her television production company because “I outgrew the space I have at Corcoran Group. I go to the point I realized this was a full-time business. I was working 14-hour days, between the obligations of chairman and trying to start a new business.”
She added, “I never intended to be a permanent fixture (at The Corcoran Group). From the very beginning this was intended as a passage.”
There are some parallels between the television industry and real estate, Corcoran noted. “Every producer is in it for himself. It is seriously competitive,” she said. In real estate, “each customer has to feel like your lover.” Each producer likes to feel that way, too, she said — that they have your total attention and devotion.
While Corcoran said she feels comfortable in a managing role, her entry into television production has drawn upon her past experience as a salesperson — and she hadn’t had to flex those sales muscles for awhile. “That’s been a little rough. It’s been a little stressful as well. I’m getting better at that.”
She was having trouble sleeping before her television performances at first, but that is easing.
Reflecting on all of her friends in the real estate industry and at her company, she referred to “my sales staff” and then she caught herself. “I shouldn’t say that,” she said. When she leaves the company, she won’t be able to say that anymore. “I’ve got to get used to it.”
Even so, she doesn’t view her departure from The Corcoran Group as a real ending, as she will maintain relationships with people in the industry and at the company that she grew.
The author of “If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails: And Other Lessons I Learned from My Mom,” Corcoran said she has received other book offers but doesn’t have the time to write these days, and she couldn’t imagine leaving all of the writing up to someone else. “One thing I can’t do is delegate a book. I like to control what I do,” she said.
As for her final weeks at The Corcoran Group, she said she hasn’t devoted much thought to that.
“I don’t envision myself riding into the sunset with a corporate gold watch,” she said. But she does love to have a good time.
And what defined The Corcoran Group in its earliest years was, quite simply, “our ability to have fun.” Corcoran said she would like her departure to be something along those lines, too.