MLS & Associations

Move acquisition frees up $15 million in NAR funds

Trade group can reinvest cash in strategic initiatives

When News Corp. acquired Move Inc. in November, the National Association of Realtors gave up its ownership stake in the operator of realtor.com, leaving the giant trade group with millions that it can now reinvest.

On Nov. 13 — the day before the acquisition closed — the 1 million-member trade group tendered its 716,410 shares of Move stock for $21 per share, or $15.04 million in cash, according to a report from NAR’s Finance Committee.

The $15.04 million was the cumulative gain that NAR received for its shares of Move stock for all of the years that the association held them, NAR spokeswoman Sara Wiskerchen said in an email.

That cash is now in NAR’s operating reserves, but that doesn’t mean those reserves have increased, Wiskerchen said. Rather, the reserves previously held Move stock and are now holding the value of that stock in cash.

“Following last year’s transaction, the only difference is that the funds are now liquid and investable in other vehicles, and not ‘tied up’ with holdings of Move stock,” she said.

Wiskerchen declined to say what the funds will be used for, noting that any use of NAR reserves must be approved by NAR’s Finance Committee and board of directors.

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NAR is also required to maintain 40 percent of its gross operating expenditures budget in reserves, invested in fixed-income instruments with limited risk or volatility, she said.

NAR’s operating reserves fund budget shortfalls in NAR programs and are also the usual source of funding for NAR strategic initiatives, such as its national property database and subsidiary, Realtors Property Resource (RPR).

They also fund grants to help state and local associations meet the trade group’s core standards mandate.

NAR’s operating reserves will also be the source of funding for NAR’s latest new project: a joint venture between RPR and broker-backed initiative Upstream.

In May, NAR set aside up to $12 million over the next three years to help the two entities create and deploy a data entry and collection platform, Upstream, that will function as a middleman between real estate brokerages and the recipients of their data, including multiple listing services (MLSs) and vendors.

This will change the flow of data, making Upstream the starting point. There is no public-facing component to Upstream, so NAR won’t run afoul of a noncompete clause in the realtor.com operating agreement that doesn’t allow the trade group to engage in the online display of real estate listings.

This is also why NAR is not involved in another industry initiative to create the first national public-facing MLS listing site, known as the Broker Public Portal.

When NAR gave News Corp. its blessing to buy Move, NAR also gave up its seat on Move’s board of directors and instead got two seats on realtor.com’s advisory board. NAR CEO Dale Stinton and NAR Immediate Past President Steve Brown hold those seats.

The trade group has been quite pleased with News Corp.’s handling of realtor.com so far, Bob Goldberg told NAR’s board of directors in May. Goldberg heads up the for-profit NAR subsidiary that oversees the realtor.com operating agreement, Realtors Information Network (RIN).

“Their management and their ownership is committed to bringing realtor.com back to No. 1,” Goldberg said.

News Corp. is also committed to building “the best Realtor reviews and ratings program,” which is likely to launch in the third quarter, he said.

NAR, through RIN, will continue to receive annual royalties from Move for use of the Realtor mark, according to the Finance Committee’s report. In 2013 and 2014, those license fee payments were approximately $1.81 million and $1.84 million, respectively.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.