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.
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.
- Why did you erase all memory from the iPhone, iPad, and laptop issued to you for business purposes by Move?
- Why didn’t you give the standard two week’s notice?
- 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?
- 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?
- How many Move employees did you contact after you had already left for Zillow? What was the context of those conversations?
- Why didn’t Curt Beardsley, your number two, leave at the same time as you?
- 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?
- 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?
- In your interview with Inman, you allude to constraints at Move. Can you expound on those constraints?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
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.”
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.
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.