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Ryan Serhant is known for making bold moves. But this time, the broker and CEO of SERHANT. may have overstepped his boundaries.
An unidentified salesperson at SERHANT. Ventures, the brokerage’s educational branch, sent Brown Harris Stevens CEO Bess Freedman a pitch last week for a “tailor-made” training program for the brokerage’s agents, which would include a sales playbook, performance coaching, a social media boot camp and mentorship from Ryan Serhant himself, according to emails The Real Deal obtained.
To be sure she understood the offer correctly, Freedman reportedly asked if the deal was to pay Serhant to train her brokerage’s agents, and the SERHANT. Ventures rep said, “It may seem unorthodox, but you’re understanding it correctly.”
Freedman apparently wasn’t going to let that stand.
“There is a fine line between being unorthodox and being a schmendrick,” she replied, employing a Yiddish word that means “fool.” “Thank you, but we are going to pass.”
The president of SERHANT. Ventures, Kyle Scott, told The Real Deal the offer was made in good faith.
“We don’t view the industry so much as a series of competitors as we do one large community,” Scott said. “We partner with broker/owners all around the world to help train their agents.”
BHS has its own in-house training, marketing and technology programs for agents, including BHSOne, its digital hub for agent design, marketing, education and more, and a recently unveiled metaverse and cryptocurrency training program launched in partnership with the Metaverse Institute.
Freedman told The Real Deal she maintains “incredible respect” for Serhant, but that she turned down his offer since BHS has already invested “so much money” in the company’s own marketing and technology.
She also felt that Serhant’s outreach was very targeted to her firm specifically.
“I asked other brokerages and he hadn’t asked any other firms,” Freedman told The Real Deal. “It seems like he reached out specifically only to BHS to poke a bees’ nest.”
Serhant told The Real Deal his training program already includes some BHS agents who joined of their own volition.
This is not the first time the two NYC-based CEOs have butted heads.
During a panel at The Real Deal’s New York City Showcase + Forum in May, Freedman, alongside Douglas Elliman CEO Scott Durkin, advocated for the old guard in real estate, emphasizing the importance of relationships, while Serhant said agent brands and marketing were the backbone of his business, and a way for agents to move into the future.
Serhant and Freedman then went on to debate the merits and pitfalls of real estate reality TV, with Freedman arguing that it cheapens the industry (and in particular, represents women in a demeaning way), while Serhant said the platform allowed the industry to connect with a wider audience and become more relevant.
“We’re looking towards the future and approaching our business strategically — that means with tech, content, entertainment, and education — and we are doing this because agent brands and properties need to live in a searchable, social, digital way to succeed and sell globally,” Serhant said in a statement emailed to Inman in May.
“This is what we know about media and culture,” he added, “and this is what we are applying to our business approach at SERHANT.”