Earl Lee, the veteran Prudential Real Estate executive who helped launch Warren Buffett’s new real estate franchise brand, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, will step down as CEO of parent company HSF Affiliates Inc. on Jan. 1 and hand over the reins to Gino Blefari, the founder of Intero Real Estate Services.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Intero Real Estate Services was acquired last month by Buffett’s giant brokerage firm, HomeServices of America Inc., giving the company a foothold in Silicon Valley.

Lee, 69, served as an executive with Prudential Real Estate for 14 years before becoming the first CEO of HSF Affiliates, a joint venture between Berkshire Hathaway Inc. affiliate HomeServices and Brookfield Asset Management. Before joining Prudential Real Estate, he served as an executive for 20 years at Honolulu-based brokerage Prudential Locations LLC.

Earl Lee

Earl Lee

HSF Affiliates was established after HomeServices of America took a majority interest in the Prudential Real Estate and Real Living brands from Brookfield in October 2012. Nearly 500 brokerages representing 45,000 agents in 1,600 offices across the U.S. are affiliated with the company’s franchise brands, which include Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.

Blefari, who founded the Silicon Valley-based Intero Real Estate in 2002 after serving for five years as an executive with real estate giant Realogy, will serve as a senior vice president of HSF Affiliates until he takes over as CEO on Jan. 1.

Gino Blefari

Gino Blefari

“Earl has been instrumental in developing and executing the initial business growth strategies of HSF,” said Ron Peltier, chairman and CEO of HomeServices, in a statement. “Gino is renowned for his vision, leadership skills and real estate experience, and will be a tremendous addition to the superb senior leadership team already in place at HSF.”

“Up until two days ago I did what (brokers in the HSF Affiliate network) are doing,” Blefari told Inman News. With his firsthand knowledge gleaned from his recent experience growing a profitable, large brokerage from the ground up, Blefari says he’ll be a good resource for brokers.

Blefari said a leadership role at HSF Affiliates is “the perfect next step for me.”

HomeServices of America said Intero Real Estate co-founder Tom Tognoli has been named president and CEO of the company, and John Thompson will become chief operating officer.

The last 18 months have been a whirlwind for Lee and HSF Affiliates,  with Lee overseeing the launch of Buffett’s new real estate franchise brand, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices was created to take the place of the Prudential Real Estate brand, which is slated to disappear when the last franchise rights to the name expire in the 2020s.

Since welcoming its first brokerage on Sept. 23, BHHS’s network has grown to more than 70 firms.

Lee, a perennial member of Inman News’ 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders, will continue in a senior advisory role at HSF Affiliates through 2015.

Stephen Phillips, chief operating officer of HSF Affiliates and president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, and Bob McAdams, president of Real Living Real Estate, will remain in their current roles.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Earl Lee had served with Prudential Real Estate for over 30 years. In fact, he’s been with the network for 14 years, and before joining the network he served for 20 years at Honolulu-based Prudential Locations LLC. This story has been updated with comments from Gino Blefari.

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