Move, the operator of realtor.com and a subsidiary of News Corp, is reportedly laying off a significant portion of its staff with all business functions and offices impacted, according to a source close to the company. The source could not confirm the specific number of employees affected, but said it was more than 100 employees but under 20 percent of the company’s approximately 1,400 employees.
Move CEO David Doctorow announced the layoffs in a letter to staff Tuesday that was obtained by Inman. The changes, according to the letter, are partially due to COVID-19 but also part of a larger realtor.com restructuring.
The staff reduction comes in the wake of a leadership shuffle last month, which elevated two founders of Opcity, a tech startup that its operator Move acquired in 2018. Ben Rubenstein was elevated to chief revenue officer and Michael Lam to the newly created role of chief operations officer.
The changes also saw the ousting of two veteran executives from the company, Ray Picard, the company’s chief revenue officer and Hahn Lee, the executive vice president of business development and strategy.
Doctorow, a former eBay executive, took the helm of Move in January, after former CEO Ryan O’Hara departed from the company in June 2019. In his short time with the company, he’s overseen the massive leadership shuffle and now significant layoffs, although the latter has become common in both the real estate industry and the United States due to COVID-19.
COVID-19 has also hurt realtor.com’s business in another way: the company has given agents significant billing reductions for their agent advertising platform in the past two months. While realtor.com has not disclosed the cost of the action, a similar move by Zillow was expected to cost the company $40 million to $50 million.
Mike DelPrete, a real estate tech adviser, professor and member of Zavvie’s board of directors, told Inman he’s studied international real estate portals — after having worked at one — and thinks this might actually be the start of something interesting at realtor.com
“Realtor.com has suffered from lackluster performance for years,” Del Prete said. They’ve always kind of been the also-ran.”
“They’re huge, they have this big audience, they have all these resources, they could do some really interesting stuff like these number two portals overseas have diversified and launched interesting products but with realtor.com., nothing really happens,” DelPrete added.
But now, with the new CEO, the leadership changes, the elevation of Opcity leaders and slimming down the company — which Del Prete seems to have been a work in progress pre-pandemic — it signals, “that the company might be up to something interesting for the first time since really News Corp acquired them.”
See Doctorow’s full letter to staff below:
Today, we made the painful but necessary decision to reduce our workforce, as part of a broader effort to cut expenses and to continue the realignment of our organization. I want to be very clear that this was not a decision we took lightly. Given your questions in our recent “Ask Me Anything” sessions and RealTalks, this action may not be very surprising. But that realization does not make it any less difficult for us to have to say farewell to valued and trusted colleagues and friends.
When I arrived in early February, I began a process with the leadership team to review the company strategy and structure, with an eye towards simplification, clear and greater accountability, and faster decision-making and execution. In April, we took the first step in streamlining the company by announcing changes at the leadership level. Some of today’s actions represent the next step of this process. You will hear more from your executive leader about how your department is adapting to these measures in the next few days.
As we were working through what this realignment would look like and the impact it would have on all of us, the COVID-19 global pandemic hit with full force in March. It was then that we quickly recognized how urgent it was to cut costs significantly. In response, we announced major reductions to our hiring, travel, and marketing expenses on March 31 and enacted those immediately, hoping these steps would be sufficient to weather the storm.
But with each passing day, we have seen more evidence that no industry will emerge unscathed, and there was a need to continue streamlining our business given the business climate, in order to secure a stronger platform for our company and our people in the months and years ahead.
The reductions are spread across functions and levels. And, every office and business unit are being impacted. We know this is a difficult time for such changes to occur, and we are grateful for the many contributions made to our company by those who are affected by this action.
Our focus now is to take the best possible care of our colleagues and fully support them as they move on from realtor.com to their next opportunities. We are also moving forward quickly with an update on strategy, priorities, and workstreams for the company that I will share at our all hands later this month.
I am sure you have questions and we want to address them. Please plan to join me and my leadership team tomorrow morning, May 6, at 9 a.m. Pacific for an “Ask Me Anything” session. I have also asked each member of my leadership team to communicate directly with their departments to further address how this will impact structure and priorities.
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