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Two Questions on Errol Samuelson's Dramatic Move

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Errol

I had this long amazing post about the future of the MLS in the works… when Godzilla came onshore, thereby obliterating the real estate industry news cycle. Errol Samuelson, Chief Strategy Officer of Move and President of Realtor.com, is now the new Chief Industry Development Officer at Zillow.

The whole industry is abuzz, and our very own Notorious B.O.B. with his unique insight into that role at Zillow has already posted an excellent read on the overall topic. I’m still trying to gather some information, so this one will be brief and be limited to two questions. Because no matter how much I chew on this thing in my head, these two things just won’t go away, and can’t be answered.

Question 1: What Happened to Two Weeks Notice?

The first question comes from this report on Inman News:

Move Inc. Chief Strategy Officer and President of realtor.com Errol Samuelson is set to join Zillow as chief industry development officer. He starts today.

Move CEO Steve Berkowitz said Samuelson’s resignation, which was a surprise to him when he learned of it today midmorning, will not affect Move’s upward trend. “We’re executing on all cylinders,” he said.

Now then. Every single job I have ever had required some notice. Hell, I had to give two weeks notice when I wanted to quit my burger flipping job at a local restaurant when I was in high school. Senior level positions I’ve held have required as much as 60 day notice, plus a commitment that I would stay on in some capacity to help with the transition.

How in Amitabha Buddha’s name does the President of Realtor.com start a new job on the same day that he quit? He’s listed as one of the seven Key Executives in public filings. Those guys and gals typically have employment contracts that spell out all sorts of termination provisions and what can and cannot happen and when and by whom and so on and so forth.

Clearly, he wasn’t fired, since the article says as much. And Steve Berkowitz, the CEO of Move, would hardly be surprised if he had done the Donald Trump thing on Errol.

I have no idea what happened, and I do have calls into various people to find out, but that’s question numero uno: Why no notice?

Question 2: How Was This Even Possible? [ANSWERED BELOW! Thanks Dustin!]

Given that Errol was in the Circle of Seven, I cannot think of a scenario in which he’s even able to take a job at Zillow this quickly. How could Zillow even hire the guy?

One assumes that James Caulfield, the General Counsel of Move, a public company, didn’t get his law degree from a correspondence school the day before yesterday. There’s asymptotically-approaching-zero chance that Errol’s employment agreement did not contain a pretty strict and heavily negotiated non-compete clause.

I’ve been subject to some non-compete clauses, and know a ton of people who have them. One of my friends in finance was excluded from doing any work in the “financial field” when he left his former company, with “financial field” being extraordinarily broadly defined.

It is inconceivable that Errol Samuelson’s employment contract did not prohibit doing any work — not just taking a job, but probably even consulting work — for direct competitors, which would have been broadly defined in all likelihood. It absolutely would have included Zillow. How could it not?

Even if we had heard that Errol was resigning from Move, and then a year from now, he surfaces at Zillow, I’d have wondered that the non-compete was so short. 1 year is typically a minimum for senior executives with deep knowledge about a company’s plans, products, pricing, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, partnerships, etc. etc. and so on.

So the same-day quit-and-hire just does not add up for me.

Question #2 then is: Was there a non-compete clause? If the answer is Yes, then… what happened to it? If the answer is No, then… so who will be your next new General Counsel?

Inquiring minds want to know. I’ll see about getting some answers, and if successful, will report back. I’ll hold off on speculating until I know a bit more.

-rsh

 

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Rob Hahn
Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

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