On the Move vs. Zillow Executive Exit Affair…

I have two questions:

1) When appointing a new head of industry relations leads to you getting sued by the trade association for that industry, does that count as a bad hire?

2) If a key executive departs for a competitor and you quickly promote someone internally to replace them….and then the replacement also quits for the same competitor a week later, does that indicate something’s rotten in Denmark?

I’m talking, of course, about Zillow’s poaching of two key execs from Move, which runs Realtor.com under license from NAR.  Zillow seems to get a kick out of making waves, but this is one move that seems like it might lead to some pretty serious splashback.

It’d take far wiser legal heads than mine to predict whether Move’s got a strong case in its newly announced lawsuit against its competitor and its former employee, Errol Samulson. (Likely it will soon be former employees, since the departure of former Chief Technology officer Craig Beardsley was announced just this morning, pretty much simultaneously with the lawsuit.)

What I can’t help but scratch my head about as an industry watcher is why the departure of the execs seems to have been handled in the most back-stabby possible way, particularly when the whole purported purpose of the hire is to help Zillow extend an olive branch to an industry at best wary of (and at worst, seething with resentment toward) it. One suspects somehow that lawyers were involved.

But even if there’s a plausible tactical reason to instruct Samulson to depart so abruptly and without prior warning, in a way it only deepens the larger strategic blunder; you could be smoother than Cassanova and slicker than Sammy Glick, it still seems well-nigh impossible to succeed in buttering up a bunch of people who’ve just watched you burn a career’s worth of bridges so publicly.

In some ways, Zillow still seems torn between it Silicon Valley side and its real estate side — the one which demands that business be “disruptive” and revolutionary and treat the old guard like the Visigoths handled Rome, and the other which, well, is the old guard, which is based on a 100-year-old compact of co-operation for mutual benefit, which is ruled by people with 20, 30, or 40 years of experience in the game. Given the events of this week, it seems like barbarians make lousy diplomats…

On the Move vs. Zillow Executive Exit Affair…

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min