Technology

News Corp. taps one of its own to lead realtor.com operator Move

Ryan O’Hara is a veteran of several News Corp. businesses

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Less than a month after closing its $950 million acquisition of realtor.com operator Move Inc., News Corp. is bringing in new leadership at the top, announcing today that News Corp. veteran Ryan O’Hara will take over the CEO reins from Steve Berkowitz on Jan. 5.

Berkowitz has been at the helm of the San Jose, California-based firm since 2009.

News Corp. began integrating content with realtor.com and several of its publications a week after it sealed the Move acquisition, and the leadership change will coincide with a “broad-based” marketing campaign that News Corp. is set to run on The Wall Street Digital Network in early January to send more quality traffic to realtor.com, News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson said in a statement.

Ryan O'Hara

Ryan O’Hara

“Ryan’s experience in the digital media and entertainment industry and his deft management skills will be invaluable assets as we pursue the rapid expansion of Move in this era of exponential change,” Thomson said. “We believe he has the ability to leverage the relationship with our existing U.S. media properties to the benefit of all and to make the most of the significant expertise at REA” Group Ltd., operator of Australian residential property website, realestate.com.au.

News Corp. owns a majority stake in REA Group Ltd., and REA has a 20 percent stake in Move.

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O’Hara most recently served as a president at the Madison Square Garden Company, where he oversaw the firm’s media, technology and marketing partnership divisions. Before taking on that gig in July 2013, he served for three years as the CEO of the entertainment trading card company Topps Company Inc.

From 2002 to 2010, O’Hara worked at several News Corp. businesses, including Gemstar TV Guide International/TV Guide Company, the last five years as president of the TV Guide network and several digital businesses.

Berkowitz, 56, who led Move for close to six years, isn’t sure what his next move is or if it will even be in real estate, he told Inman.

When he came on board in 2009, Berkowitz says he was focused on making the company competitive with the fast-rising upstarts Zillow and Trulia, which have since surpassed realtor.com and Move in Web traffic, revenue and valuation.

Berkowitz said he’s happy with what he accomplished during his time at Move, including helping the company become more competitive by working with the National Association of Realtors to help realtor.com adapt in an increasingly competitive environment.

Move operates realtor.com under the terms of an agreement with NAR dating to 1996 that governs some aspects of the website’s design and the content that it can display, including ad products.

Berkowitz helped negotiate two amendments to the agreement that allowed Move to make changes to the site that it said would make it more competitive.

A 2010 amendment to the operating agreement gave Move the leeway to update realtor.com’s design, especially on mobile, without as much NAR oversight. It also allowed realtor.com to develop its Connection for Co-Brokerage lead forms for buyer’s agents, similar to agent advertising products offered by Zillow and Trulia.

NAR’s board of directors approved another amendment to the realtor.com operating agreement in 2013 that allowed the site to publish listings from sources beyond those provided by Realtors, including additional new homes and rental properties.

Berkowitz said his only regret about his time at Move was that those changes were not made sooner.

NAR has less direct control of realtor.com now that News Corp. is at the helm.

As part of News Corp.’s acquisition of Move, NAR relinquished its shares in Move (it held 1.92 percent of Move’s common stock) and gave up its seat on Move’s board of directors. NAR has two seats on the Move’s nine-member advisory board.

The realtor.com operating agreement remains in effect, however, and still requires that NAR sign off on changes to ad products.

In announcing O’Hara’s appointment as Move’s CEO, News Corp. said that he “looks forward to working closely with the National Association of Realtors, a key and crucial partner of Move, knowing that Realtors are at the heart of American real estate transactions.”