Hamburg, Germany-based luxury real estate franchisor Engel & Völkers Real Estate has hired former Century 21 Real Estate President and CEO Tom Kunz to help facilitate its plans for aggressive growth in the U.S., the company announced today.

Kunz will head up growth in the western U.S. as senior vice president of market development of Engel & Völkers USA’s Western region.

Before leading Century 21 from 2005 to 2010, when he retired, Kunz served as a vice president for 20 years at Century 21’s parent company, known today as Realogy Holdings Corp.

Tom Kunz

The hire is part of a move to grow the 36-year-old company’s presence in the U.S., which it first entered in 2006, said Engel & Völkers USA Chief Operating Officer Anthony Hitt.

The company has about 550 brokerages and 4,000 agents in 36 countries in high-end locations like Paris, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Rio de Janiero, and has been laying the groundwork for a U.S. expansion.

Engel & Völkers USA, which will compete with brands like Sotheby’s International Realty and Christie’s International Real Estate, plans to launch a new USA-focused website in the next few weeks, he said.

“2013 is an expansion year,” Hitt said.

In the next 90 days, Engel & Völkers-branded brokerages will start springing up in places like Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, in an expansion of the franchise’s current U.S. territory of Florida (where two-thirds of the offices currently reside), boutique outlets in New York state in towns like Lake Placid and Locust Valley, and in Los Angeles and Newport Beach in California, Hitt said.

Kunz joined Realogy in 1982 and became president and CEO of Century 21 Real Estate in 2004. overseeing the operation of more than 7,700 Century 21 offices worldwide.

Kunz told Inman News he didn’t take well to the retired life. So, when presented with the Engel & Völkers USA opportunity — and with his noncompete clause expiring — he jumped on it.

“It was almost like coming home,” Kunz said of joining Engel & Völkers USA, which he described as having a family-type atmosphere. “That’s what I was used to at Century 21 when it first started up,” he said.

Kunz said he will build the brand and coordinate franchise sales in the U.S. west of the Mississippi for Engel & Völkers USA.

“I’ve always believed that the current licensing model in real estate could go far beyond brand recognition and become more focused on brand substance,” Kunz said in a statement released by Engel & Völkers today. “Other brands outside of real estate have demonstrated that when the name and logo are backed by high-quality service and products that are consistent throughout the entire network the entire industry can change as a result.”

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