Half a year after the ouster of Bright MLS’s original CEO and founder, the massive mid-Atlantic real estate organization has chosen Brian Donnellan to take the reins.
Bright MLS announced Monday that Donnellan will permanently assume the roles of both CEO and president. Donnellan had been serving as interim CEO since February, when Tom Phillips left the chief executive job. Prior to that transition, Donnellan was Bright MLS‘s chief operating officer.
In a conversation with Inman, Donnellan said that there is currently a huge opportunity for multiple listing services to better serve both agents and consumers, and expressed excitement about his new role.
“What I’m most excited about here is actually making a difference,” he said.
Jon Coile, Bright MLS’s chairman, added in a statement that the board ultimately settled on Donnellan after “a rigorous national search involving a number of exemplary candidates.”
“The progress that Brian has engineered in these last six months is remarkable,” Coile added in a statement. “He’s inspired the Bright staff to take their performance to the next level while bringing in top talent from both inside and outside the industry to supercharge the senior management team.”
Bright MLS formed in 2017 thanks to the merger of Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. (MRIS) and The Delaware Valley Real Estate Information Network Inc. (TREND), two other multiple listing services that operated in the mid-Atlantic region.
The merger was a major step toward the fulfillment of a vision that leaders at the MLSs had described as “the next era of MLS.” The resulting organization ended up representing about 95,000 real estate professionals.
However, all was not well at Bright MLS. Eventually, numerous complaints began flooding in about the organization’s technology and hundreds of subscribers formed a closed Facebook group called “Bright MLS Nightmares and Support.”
Phillips left Bright MLS in February, though a spokesperson for the organization at the time denied that the departure had to do with agent complaints. The spokesperson also said that “Tom was not fired, he did not resign and he was not asked to resign. He and the [board’s] executive committee had discussions and reached a mutually agreeable plan for him to depart.”
Donnellan’s accession to the post of interim CEO, along with the search for a new permanent leader, was announced at the same time as Phillips departure.
After taking over as interim CEO, Donnellan “went on the road” to talk to users about “what they were happy with and what they were unhappy with,” he told Inman. The organization has also made a number of new hires over the last few months in an effort to improve its services.
Donnellan said that the result of these various efforts is that Bright MLS is “moving in a positive direction.” He specifically pointed to data quality and system reliability as areas that have improved over the last six months.
Asked if the real estate industry is likely to continue seeing MLS mergers and the formation of large regional organizations, Donnellan replied that “I think it does make sense.” Integrating systems and geographic differences is a challenging process, he explained, but over time he does “believe that the industry will consolidate.”
That said, Donnellan believes that local differences in the real estate markets will prevent the formation of a national MLS — something that some high-profile industry leaders have expressed interest in. He also didn’t say if Bright MLS itself might expand in the near future.
“We are concentrated on our footprint where it is right now,” Donnellan replied when asked about potential expansion. “We want to get it to be the best it can be, and I think the future will take care of itself.”
In his new role as CEO and president, Donnellan will be “charged with advancing and protecting the company’s mission and vision while promoting increased revenue, profitability and growth,” according to a Bright MLS statement.
Donnellan also said in the statement that it was a “tremendous honor” to take over the leadership roles, and added to Inman that he wants to “see if we can change what the MLS is and what it means to be an MLS.”
“We’re excited about raising the bar of the MLS” he concluded.