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12 questions remain for Zillow’s Errol Samuelson

(Business News) Errol Samuelson recently left Move, Inc. for Zillow, and many questions remain about his departure.

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Move executives jump ship for Zillow, questions remain

Earlier this month, Zillow announced that Errol Samuelson, former president of realtor.com and Chief Strategy Officer at Move, Inc. became their new Chief Industry Development Officer to direct the company’s relations with the industry. Move quickly promoted Samuelson’s number two, Curt Beardsley to fill his shoes, and days later, it was announced that Beardsley too, had converted to Zillow-ism. Both figures left on the heels of Trulia announcing that they had recruited John Whitney, the VP of ListHub (a Move company) to shore up their listing accuracy.

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Some called the poaching a blow, others cited Move’s opportunity to bring in some new blood. Brad Inman, founder of Inman News recently sat down with Samuelson to discuss his exit, and we gained insight into Zillow’s culture. While we have tremendous respect for Inman and the paths he has paved for the industry, the video interview left us wanting more. Much more.

Prior to the publication of the video interview, we reached out to Samuelson, offering to tell his side of the story, even inviting him to do a video interview with our CEO who he has met with and spoken with in the past. He politely declined, citing that “right now I’m heads down with the team here in Seattle, putting together our plans for the next 6 months.”

Although our invitation stands, it may be because he knows that our policy is to not offer questions in advance, to never softball an interview, and to focus on the facts, that the interview was declined. For this reason, we were left wanting more. Much more.

12 questions remain for Errol Samuelson

Because we consider ourselves watchdogs for the Realtor membership and feel it fair that he answer to questions that impact not only Realtor-owned Realtor.com, but the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and their members. In that spirit, we have no choice but to ask these questions here.

  1. Why did you erase all memory from the iPhone, iPad, and laptop issued to you for business purposes by Move?
  2. Why didn’t you give the standard two week’s notice?
  3. Why did you resign by contacting the human resources department on a day that everyone knew your CEO would be in investor meetings and completely unavailable for the duration of the work day? Why didn’t you attend your scheduled 2013 review the next day with Steve Berkowitz and resign in person?
  4. When Berkowitz contacted you upon learning of your resignation, he asked only one thing – that you give him 24 hours before the announcement of your leaving goes public (we assume so he could finish his meeting and have his team mobilized to respond). You declined and the announcement went out just minutes later. Why wasn’t this request honored?
  5. How many Move employees did you contact after you had already left for Zillow? What was the context of those conversations?
  6. Why didn’t Curt Beardsley, your number two, leave at the same time as you?
  7. How do you feel about your actions (wiping hard drives, going to a competitor without notice) potentially impacting how Move will likely analyze Beardsley’s exit? Doesn’t this put Beardsley in an awkward position?
  8. Berkowitz noted that you were always one of the most outspoken critics of Realtor.com competitors, and to see that change overnight is like a Republican becoming Democrat with no explanation. How do you respond?
  9. In your interview with Inman, you allude to constraints at Move. Can you expound on those constraints?
  10. Were the constraints because of the company, or because in the past three years, a $90 million marketing budget was taken out of your hands, and you were stripped of involvement in day to day operations, leaving you as somewhat of a figurehead with tied hands? Is that the real reason you resigned?
  11. Zillow launched as the anti-Realtor.com, so why do you think they are recruiting talent from within the ranks of the company they once swore against and are creating products that are so similar to Move products? By joining Zillow, aren’t you just setting them up for the same failure you couldn’t control in your tenure at Move?
  12. In your new role in industry relations, wouldn’t you expect to walk into a broker’s office and receive this same line of questioning, given that the Realtor model is built on cooperation and trust?

Samuelson is a very pleasant person and not abrasive, so he is indeed a popular figure in the sector, but industry relations matters and it’s built on trust.

We look forward to getting answers to these questions, not because musical chairs aren’t common in corporate life, but because of the complexity of the Move, Inc. structure and how intertwined it is with NAR and their members; trade secrets are relevant.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Robert Drummer

    March 25, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Great questions, none of which will be answered except in depositions and testimony. I expect some Zillow apologists to weigh in and explain how “it’s just business.”

  2. timandjulieharris

    March 25, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    It certainly doesn’t appear as if this issue is simply going to go away or be forgotten about.
    The other possible question would be why Zillow would want him? Not questioning his abilities or professional track record. From all accounts he is a top level operator.. perhaps one of the best in the industry.
    Zillow must of known the fallout this would create. Perhaps they didn’t know how the exit was handled by him or possibly more likely he was operating under the advice of an attorney and all of the moves he made were strategic. Either way someone is in for big legal bills. Is Zillow picking up the tab?
    After watching Inman’s interview my big take away was that he may of misjudged the hype this would create. I honestly felt a little sorry for him. Wait until the CNBC types catch on to this story….
    At the end of the day new blood (and being a little pissed off) will be good for Move.
    Maybe we will learn that Mr. Samuelson left as he did for an excellent reason. I bet a year from now Move/ Realtor.com will have used this rather inconvenient event as a catalyst for massive positive change.

  3. rolandestrada

    March 25, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    I think at the end of the day, no one will care outside of the inside-baseball crowd. The news cycle has moved on from this story, CNBC or otherwise.

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Business News

These stores refuse to start Black Friday early

(BUSINESS NEWS) There is a rising trend of stores being pressured to open their doors earlier and earlier each holiday weekend but these companies refuse.

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This year, Target, Walmart, and Best Buy are among a group of retail super villains who have decided it’s appropriate to begin the Black Friday shopping nightmare on Thanksgiving Day, with some opening as early as 5pm on Thursday.

As someone who has only had the misfortune of working the retail tornado of Black Friday once, I would never wish it upon anyone. Yet many stores feel pressured to begin the doorbusters earlier every year.

To compete with online shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers implement drastic measures to get customers in stores during the discount season.

Last year, eMarketer reported internet users in their survey were likelier to shop online during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been watching retail stores crumble as online shopping continues to dominate the market.

To lure in shoppers, physical stores must come up with deals so alluring that people would kill for them.

Literally. I just googled “did anyone die on Black Friday last year” and found out that there’s a handy site called Black Friday Death Count. The answer is yes, some people died last year in Black Friday-related incidents, and in fact two of the three deaths took place at separate Walmarts.

So that makes this year’s disturbingly early foray into deal hunting even less enticing.

While I don’t hold Thanksgiving sacred by any means, moving the even unholier Black Friday back to impede on a holiday is ludicrous. But a handful of heroes are saying no seriously guys, we’re not doing this.

Over fifty retailers are putting collectively putting their foot down, and will remain closed on Thanksgiving Day. While some may still be party to next-day discounts, they’re at least taking a stand.

Here’s a list of all the places you can’t go on Thanksgiving, because mercifully they’re closed:

  • A.C. Moore
  • Abt Electronics
  • Academy Sports + Outdoors
  • At Home
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Blain’s Farm and Fleet
  • Burlington
  • Cabela’s
  • Cost Plus World Market
  • Costco
  • Craft Warehouse
  • Crate and Barrel
  • DSW – Designer Shoe Warehouse
  • Ethan Allen
  • Gardner-White Furniture
  • Guitar Center
  • H&M
  • Half Price Books
  • Harbor Freight
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Home Depot
  • HomeGoods
  • Homesense
  • IKEA
  • JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores
  • Jos. A. Bank
  • La-Z-Boy (all corporately owned stores)
  • Lowe’s
  • Marshalls
  • Mattress Firm
  • Micro Center
  • Music & Arts
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Office Depot and OfficeMax
  • Outdoor Research (closed Black Friday too)
  • P.C. Richard & Son
  • Party City
  • Patagonia
  • Petco
  • PetSmart
  • Pier 1 Imports
  • Publix
  • Raymour & Flanigan Furniture
  • Sam’s Club
  • Sierra Trading Post
  • Sportsman’s Warehouse
  • Sprint (Corporate & Dealer Owned Stores; Mall Kiosks May Open)
  • Staples
  • Sur La Table
  • The Container Store
  • The Original Mattress Factory
  • TJ Maxx
  • Tractor Supply
  • Trollbeads
  • Von Maur
  • West Marine

And while that’s a pretty hefty list, the fact remains that many unfortunate employees will have to show up to work on Thanksgiving when they should be taking naps, or avoiding helping their family clean up after lunch.

Thinking about some retailers’ decision to open a day early for Black Friday almost makes Cards Against Humanity’s crowdfunded hole stunt last year seem reasonable. Maybe if we’re lucky, the tradition of Black Friday will get sucked up in a black hole, never to plague us again.

I guess staying home is also an option. If you opt into the shopping this year, stay safe. And if you choose to do so on Thanksgiving, maybe just don’t tell anyone.

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Business News

Amazon is extending its takeover to sportswear

(BUSINESS NEWS) As Amazon continues its quest for total retail dominance, they are beginning to try their hand with sportswear.

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Because Amazon won’t settle until it controls every single market ever, the online retailing giant is, reportedly, gearing up to start offering its own sportswear line.

Rumors that the company might get into the workout gear game started circulating earlier this year when the company posted job listings for brand managers to help create “authentic activewear private label brands.”

They hired a brand manager for athletic wear in January.

Amazon has already been dabbling in the world of fashion, having created eight clothing brands since early last year, including a men’s shirt brand called Buttoned Down that is offered to Prime customers.

Insiders say that, while no long-term contracts have been signed so far, Amazon is negotiating with Makalot Industrials Co., a producer that makes sportswear for Gap, Uniqlo, and Kohl’s, as well as Eclat Textile Co., who provides textiles for Nike, Lululemon, and Under Armour.

Both Makalot and Eclat are based in Taiwan.

Apparently, these manufacturers are making small test batches for Amazon so they can run a trial on the concept. The fact that Amazon is working with experts in this market means they are serious about making a competitive, quality product.

Amazon currently sells about $10 billion worth of apparel, making it a serious competitor with brick-and-mortar retailers.

The workout wear market is a pretty big deal, so it would obviously be profitable if Amazon can come out with a good product. Customers are already crazy about Amazon’s online convenience and quick delivery, so they may be happy to find more options for sneakers and yoga pants.

On the other hand, private label brands that Amazon is already selling, such as Goodthreads and Lark & Ro may feel betrayed. Other sportswear brands can’t be too pleased either, with Nike reporting declines this quarter and Under Armour reducing its annual sales forecast.

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Business News

Ending a dismal year, Samsung says goodbye to CEO

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following a tumultuous year, Samsung now must face their CEO, Kwon Oh-hyun, stepping down.

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Among exploding phones, recalled washing machines and an indicted former chairman, Samsung has had a rough year. Just as they start to get back on track, they have one more crisis to deal with.

Kwon Oh-hyun, Samsung CEO, has officially announced his departure.

In a letter to the employees, Kwon announced his plans to leave the company by March of next year. His words touch on all of the typical sentiments, like that he “had been thinking long and hard about (leaving) for quite some time,” and that he wants to “move on to the next chapter in his life.”

What Kwon doesn’t make clear are his exact reasons for leaving.

He mentions that Samsung is in an “unprecedented crisis inside and out,” without sharing any specifics. Via his own words, Samsung needs to reshape their company to keep up with the ever-changing IT industry.

Kwon believes that young, fresh leadership could be the answer that Samsung needs.

Though Kwon’s departure may seem like another hit for the company, it could be a new chapter for Samsung as well.

And it is a change they desperately need. Recently, Samsung has made the headlines with scandal after scandal.

Earlier this year, Jay Y. Lee, former Vice chairman, was found guilty on multiple charges of bribery. The charge, which Lee is now serving five years in prison for, also resulted in the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Samsung also lived through two major recalls this year. They officially took the Galaxy Note 7 off of the market after various accusations of batteries overheating led to fires.

Samsung also recalled 2.8 million washing machines because their “violent vibrations” caused some users to be injured.

Major scandals like these are enough for any company to flop. However, Samsung is still in the game. Kwon’s letter calls for the company to start anew, which is exactly what they need to do to stay afloat.

Of course, creating devices that do not cause injuries and fires will be a start. In addition, new leadership will keep the company relevant and hopefully, revive their reputation.

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