In a letter to the company’s more than 1,000 agents, CEO Bess Freedman and President Hall Willkie emphatically say the company is not for sale and accuse an unnamed brokerage of spreading rumors to support unethical recruitment tactics.

Brown Harris Stevens (BHS) is not for sale, but that apparently hasn’t stopped the rumor mill.

In a letter to the company’s more than 1,000 agents, CEO Bess Freedman and President Hall Willkie emphatically say the company is not for sale, and accuse an unnamed brokerage of spreading rumors to support unethical recruitment tactics.

“At the BHS annual meeting on [February 14], Bess Freedman in her opening comments clearly dispelled the rumor that BHS is for sale,” the letter reads. “However that rumor continues to persist.”

“We believe it has been effectively driven and purposely spread by a competitor to further support their unethical recruitment tactics,” the letter continues. “That issue is being addressed legally.”

The rumors surrounding a potential sale involved BHS selling to New York City-based industry giant Compass, according to a report in the The Real Deal, although BHS does not name the brokerage that it was supposedly in talks with, or the brokerage it is accusing of unethical recruitment tacts.

When asked directly how the rumors will impact BHS’ business and if it believes Compass was behind the letter, a spokesperson for BHS simply told Inman, “I think [the memo] speaks for itself.”

“We value the relationships we have with other brokerages and are consistently looking for ways to partner more closely with them,” a Compass spokesperson told Inman in a statement. “We don’t share negative sentiments about competitors and we chose to lead with positivity rather negativity.”

Compass was founded in New York City in 2012 as Urban Compass and its footprint has grown massively in its home city since its launch. The company recently acquired Stribling & Associates, one of the last remaining independent brokerages in New York City.

At the time of the acquisition, Compass told Inman it was the third biggest brokerage in New York City by sales volume and Stribling & Associates was fifth by the same metric.

Compass has been on an acquisition spree in the last year, acquiring top brokerage San Francisco brokerages Pacific Union International, Alain Pinel Realtors and Paragon Real Estate, along with Stribling & Associates in New York City and a number of tech-related acquisitions. 

But that growth through acquisition and recruitment has drawn the ire of some in the industry, which have questioned its strategy. Both Zephyr Real Estate in San Francisco and Modern Spaces in New York City have sued Compass over its recruiting practices.

Despite Compass’ growing presence, BHS still believes it can compete in New York City.

“Despite the enormous changes in our industry through competition and aggregators we, our co-chairmen and Alan Kersner believe more than ever in the future continued success of this firm as the preeminent independent company that focuses on supporting you, on professionalism, and on success in selling real estate,” the letter reads.

BHS and Halstead Property – another top New York City brokerage – are both owned by Terra Holdings, a New York City-based real estate holding company.

Email Patrick Kearns

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