Top Premier agents leave on news of sale


Top Premier agents leave on news of sale

Posted by Marcia Salkin in Luxury Home 07 Jan 2009

By Aaron Kessler
Published: Saturday, December 13, 2008 at 1:00 a.m. Last Modified: Friday, December 12, 2008 at 11:45 p.m.
Sarasota Herald Tribune

SARASOTA – One day after Signature Sotheby’s International Realty announced it was acquiring Premier Properties of Southwest Florida’s Sarasota office, Premier’s two top agents made the decision to leave.
The veteran team of Marcia Salkin and Paulene Soublis decamped Thursday to Michael Saunders & Co., bringing along more than $85 million in listings.
Salkin said that the abrupt purchase of Premier was “shocking,” but that she kept an open mind while Signature and the Sotheby’s corporate officials made their case.
“We listened to everything Sotheby’s had to offer, listened to their presentations,” Salkin said. “But we decided with Michael. This is where we feel comfortable. Sotheby’s is a good brand, but when it came down to it, there was really no comparison for us.”
The move returns Salkin and Soublis to familiar territory: The pair worked for Saunders for nearly two decades prior to joining Premier. As of Friday, they had moved into their new offices at Saunders’ Longboat Key South site.
Salkin and Soublis have consistently ranked in the top tier of Sarasota area agents. So far this year, they have closed more than $22 million in sales, despite the struggling housing market.
When Signature announced its takeover of Premier on Wednesday, there was some question about whether the company would try to keep for itself the listings of agents who wanted to leave. But Salkin said she so far has not had any problems taking her clients to Saunders, and does not expect a fight.
“The brokers have to work out all the details, but I think it’s just semantics at this point,” she said. “All of our sellers want to come with us.”
She said that in the ultra-high-end market, sellers really choose an individual agent more than they do a company, and that those intentions should be respected.
“Our sellers signed up with us; they didn’t really sign up to be part of a franchise environment,” Salkin said.
As of Friday, a number of other former Premier agents contacted by the Herald-Tribune were weighing their options, and had yet to reach decisions on whether to stay or go. Signature is doing its best to get people on board as quickly as possible, asking all former Premier agents to formally sign an agreement to join the Sotheby’s affiliate.
Signature’s managing partner, Judy Green, did not return phone calls on Friday.
One thing seems to be clear: There is a growing movement within the ranks of the former Premier agents to control the fate of their listings. If Signature Sotheby’s attempts to force the issue, the company could be in for a lengthy fight.
Signature and Sotheby’s have a strong interest in keeping the sellers with the company.
While the terms of the Premier acquisition have not been made public, it is not uncommon for such deals to involve little money changing hands, and instead for the proceeds to come out of future commissions. If the agents and their listings go elsewhere, so too does that money.
Using Salkin and Soublis as an example, and to demonstrate the magnitude of their departure: Their $85 million in listings could potentially translate someday to roughly $300,000 in franchise fees to Sotheby’s and nearly $1.2 million for Signature itself, based on the firm’s 75/25 commission structure and the 6 percent franchise fee charged off the top of each sale.
This story appeared in print on page D1

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