Real Estate Weekly
May 5, 2004

MAY TO STAY INDEPENDENT DESPITE BHS SHARE SWOOP

Brown Harris Stevens has acquired the ownership interest of William B. May’s President Peter Marra, who has joined the tony brokerage as an executive vice president.

However, contrary to previous reports, Brown Harris Stevens will become a only a minority shareholder in the company, because Marra was only a minority owner.

William B. May has named Roberto Benzilio, a 21-year veteran of the company as its interim president, following Marra’s shock resignation.

May CEO Christian Deutsch issued a statement, saying: “The May family continues to own William B. May Real Estate and the company is not controlled by any other firm. We will continue to operate independently.  Peter Marra was only a minority shareholder.”

William B. May has offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Westchester.

Marra has joined Brown Harris Stevens as executive vice president in the residential sales division, and will head Brown Harris Stevens’ new Madison Avenue office located at 1121 Madison Avenue. The new office opened
last Thursday.

Brown Harris Stevens is owned by Terra Holdings, which also owns
Halstead Properties.

Terra Holdings two co-chairmen, William Lie Zeckendorf and David A. Burris, announced in a joint statement how the purchase was part of a larger effort by Terra Holdings to acquire shares in other firms.

“The strategic acquisition of the shares of William B. May continues our trend in acquiring interests in leading residential brokerage firms in the city,” the
co-chairmen said in the statement.

“As the leading, privately held real estate company in Manhattan, our growth through acquisitions further enables us to capture a significant share of the competitive Manhattan residential brokerage market, while providing the highest level of service to our clientele. We look forward to Peter’s leadership at our new Madison Avenue office, where he will oversee day-to-day operations of our brokerage staff on the Upper East Side.”

Terra Holdings claims to be debt-free, an achievement that helped them close the transaction in just four days, Zieckendorf said.

Esther Muller, who operates her own real estate consulting firm and also owns On-Site Realty, a property management company, commented, “I think Peter Marra working with Hal Willkie is good,” referring to Brown Harris Stevens’ president.

William B. May is one of the oldest real estate companies serving the New York City marketplace.

The company was founded in 1866 and has been run by four generations of the May family since then.

The acquisition of the shares was preceded by larger consolidations earlier this year, including Cendant Corp. acquiring Sotheby’s International Realty in February. And earlier this month, Douglas Elliman announced it had acquired Goodstein Realty, a well-known Manhattan and Long Island boutique brokerage firm. Stuart Siegel, a senior vice president at NRT Inc., who is responsible for the Sotheby’s company-owned brokerage operations that were recently acquired by Cendant, said he believed small firms still have their place.

At a recent lunch seminar of the New York branch of the International
Real Estate Federation, Siegel said he believed in the personal touch
of smaller firms.

“A significant part of the real estate profession will always be
relationship-based,” Siegel said.

“In this context, therefore, I feel that smaller organizations can and will continue to co-exist comfortably with the major brands.”

Siegel’s sentiments were echoed by Dottie Herman, CEO of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, at VU 2004, a recent New York Times-sponsored panel on the changing real estate market.

Although Herman predicted many mid-level companies would
eventually consolidate, she said, “I do think there is a place for the very
small niche broker.”