If Dolly Lenz did not exist we would have to create her. The woman is a real estate mega-broker of mythological proportions: She has said that she has done $7 billion in sales, has personally owned 70 to 80 properties, and currently keeps 12 BlackBerrys; her name is in the news weekly, especially in the Post’s real estate column; her old falling-out with ex-protégé Michael Shvo is still realty’s juiciest feud; Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski, a client, nicknamed her “Jaws.”
So imagine the gasps echoing around upscale Manhattan this month when the annual Real Estate Top 200, an objective ranking (by sales volume and what’s called transaction sides) sponsored by the Wall Street Journal, Real Trends and Lore Magazine, didn’t have Ms. Lenz at the No. 1 spot she owned last year.
It was so traumatizing that the real estate magazine The Real Deal published a Web item with Ms. Lenz’s picture, announcing her as the top-ranked broker. But, if you look closely, the item used last year’s list, which had put Ms. Lenz’s sales volume at $748,319,000, four times higher than the runner-up. The post was eventually taken offline.
As it happens, Ms. Lenz was not on 2008’s Top 200 list at all. “We didn’t respond to their surveys,” said Howard Lorber, the chairman and co-owner of Prudential Douglas Elliman, where Ms. Lenz has the title of vice chairman. “We think it’s ridiculous; no one checks anything, anyone can put whatever they want.”
Applicants provide their own sales information. “I mean,” Mr. Lorber said later, “last year’s were so off. I know people on that list, O.K.? You ask yourself, why do you even want to be on it? They were so off, it was laughable. Who wants to be involved on a stupid survey that’s not even accurate? We just made a company decision not to do it.”
Steve Murray, the head of Real Trends, said he asked for Ms. Lenz’s sales numbers six times. This year’s No. 1, a California agent, had only $275,042,750 in sales volume.
Could it be that top brokers who didn’t respond were annoyed that the survey asked, for the first time, for income tax return forms to verify their sales numbers? Could brokers have not wanted to respond because of scaled-back success? “Yeah, I think that has something to do with it,” Mr. Murray said. “So you’re down a little bit? Everybody has up and down years!”
“Complete bullshit,” Mr. Lorber said. This year’s list, he points out, ranked brokers based on their sales in 2007. “If it happened with ’08 and someone had that inference, I would understand—but ’07? ’07 was a banner year!”
Ms. Lenz did not respond to emails.