On Tuesday morning, the jaw of every real estate obsessive in Manhattan was hanging way down on the radiant-heat floor. Besides a Page Six item about the aging doyenne broker Alice Mason downsizing her firm, which was not a massive shock, the social diarist David Patrick Columbia’s wonderfully patrician Web site had a massive real estate story.
“Corcoran … is closing,” he wrote, “with its biggest producers moving over to Brown Harris Stevens.” But that wasn’t all. “Also closing after years in business is the high end residential brokerage Edward Lee Cave, with his biggest producing brokers also moving over to Brown Harris.” It was petrifying: Corcoran is one of the city’s two largest residential real estate firms, along with archrival Douglas Elliman; Mr. Cave, a man who takes his Carlyle martinis on the rocks, has the quintessential boutique brokerage.
“It’s all nonsense,” Corcoran CEO Pam Liebman (pictured) told The Observer around 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday. “There’s not an ounce of truth to it. Not an ounce of truth to it, and we’re going to have our attorneys do something about it.”
By 11:45 a.m., Mr. Columbia’s Web report had been revised to say both rumors were “simply false.”
Considering the double Brown Harris name drop, might his supposed news have come from that rival firm? “I think these rumors are being spread by Elliman,” a Corcoran source argued. “It’s ugly out there. They’ve been unable to successfully poach brokers from Corcoran in the past, so now they’ve turned to this tactic to scare them into jumping ship.”
“No, no,” Mr. Columbia told The Observer. He said the rumors had not come from brokers. “The reality is, whether people like to face it or not, we’re living in a time where financial waters are swirling.” After all, news just broke that Carl Icahn is suing friend and fellow billionaire Leon Black, whose firm Apollo Management paid $6.6 billion last year for Corcoran’s parent, Realogy. Mr. Icahn, who is suing over bond refinancing, claims Realogy is “deeply insolvent.”
Ms. Liebman said those quarrels have nothing to do with the effectiveness of her company: “It’s Business 101. … The Corcoran Group is very solid.”
Meanwhile, there will likely be some alterations at Edward Lee Cave’s immensely proper boutique brokerage. Mr. Cave, currently the sole owner, said that he, brokerage president Caroline E. Y. Guthrie and senior vice president Kathryn Steinberg may be changing the group’s corporate structure.
That means they may share ownership of the brokerage.
It’s been in the works for a year, according to the 60-something Mr. Cave. “I’m just not quite as active as I used to be. For the corporation to go on smoothly and efficiently, some new ownership is totally appropriate.”
Is that saddening? “No! I’m excited. I want my company to go on forever. I want in 50 years for someone to say, ‘Edward Lee Cave, Inc? What an unusual name! I wonder who he was.’”