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Bob Goldberg emerged with his job as chief executive officer intact — as did other endangered NAR executives — following a hastily assembled emergency meeting in Chicago Thursday to head off growing fallout from swirling sexual harassment allegations leveled at the National Association of Realtors Saturday.
Full-throated support for Goldberg, who many expected to announce his early retirement as a result of the fast-moving scandal, came late Thursday with an official statement from new president Tracy Kasper pledging to repair damage already done — but stopping far short of the massacre some members had called for on message boards and forums following the resignation of predecessor Kenny Parcell two days after a blistering investigation by The New York Times.
“We know there are some who have been hurt, and we acknowledge that it is up to all of us at NAR to make the necessary change to create an atmosphere where they feel safe,” the statement attributed to Kasper said. “The Executive Committee met today to discuss NAR policies and procedures related to complaints of member misconduct. We recognize there is so much work to be done. We will be seeking further input and considerations for action through recommendations of the Executive Committee and the Culture PAG.”
“The consensus among the Executive Committee is we need to rebuild trust with staff and members with meaningful change,” she added. “We are bringing in third party experts to carefully and comprehensively look at what we’re doing now for what works, what needs to be changed and what is missing. We also will support and empower staff in their similar efforts. The Executive Committee agreed we have a shared purpose and are united in support of our staff and that includes Bob.”
The astonishing outcome came following a tight-lipped, day-long meeting in which National Association of Realtor executives were required to turn in their cell phones before discussions commenced, sources told Inman.
The decision to stand by Goldberg, longtime Senior Vice President of Talent Development and Resources Donna Gland and others comes on the heels of growing Realtor upheaval, as Parcell’s misconduct, antitrust lawsuits, and concerns over misogyny and discrimination have pushed many of the trade organization’s 1.56 million members over the edge.
As the scandal unfolded this week, Realtors stormed social media, private real estate forums and the comments sections of Inman to call for the resignations of Goldberg and other NAR executives complicit in covering up claims against Parcell made by nearly two dozen women in an exposé Saturday in The New York Times that described a culture of harassment, retaliation and evasion.
“I would ask for Goldberg to step down early as well,” Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices broker Andrea Geller told Inman on Wednesday ahead of the announcement in support of Goldberg. “What happened is not a new issue. It’s just they got caught. The lawsuit brought out a situation that has been ongoing for many years, which means that the department, from HR to the legal department to the C-suite, has been complicit.”
“The #MeToo movement came out and the entertainment industry and private corporations and public corporations and other industries had their reckoning,” she added. “I don’t know why NAR thought they would be able to continue to sweep this under the carpet — there is not a big enough rug to sweep this under.”
Meanwhile, a Change.org petition on Monday calling for the ouster of Parcell made way for the NAR Accountability Project, an initiative launched Wednesday that had racked up 1,000 supporters by Thursday evening. Its organizers’ first demand was that Goldberg and others within NAR’s executive ranks retire early.
Jason Haber, a Compass broker who devised both the Change.org petition and the NAR Accountability Project, told Inman on Thursday that real change will only come after a full overhaul of NAR’s executive suite has been achieved.
“Replace the entire leadership team at NAR including CEO Bob Goldberg,” he said. “I know Mr. Goldberg has had many successes during his tenure as CEO and he should be properly recognized for his years of service. But he and his leadership team presided over a toxic culture at NAR that included multiple allegations of sexual harassment and abuse. The New York Times story was just the tip of the iceberg.”
Beyond hurling the National Association of Realtors into a spiral, the scandal will likely be a black mark on Goldberg’s 30-year tenure with NAR, which included 21 years as its senior vice president and six years as its CEO.
During his CEO tenure, Goldberg led the creation of the association’s Strategic Business, Innovation, and Technology team and Innovation, Opportunity & Investment Summit, which wrapped up its 2023 conference in Miami on Wednesday. He was also key in successfully scaling NAR’s accelerator, REACH, and its investment arm, Second Century Ventures.
Goldberg received kudos for securing real estate as an “essential service” during 2020’s COVID-19 lockdowns. The former CEO pledged to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion for NAR staff and members, which fell in line with 2021 NAR President Charlie Oppler’s formal apology for the association’s former role in furthering redlining and housing discrimination.
The leader’s tenure hasn’t been without blemish, however, with criticism leveled over the handling of the harassment allegations and several high-profile lawsuits tied to NAR policies in recent months. Despite that, Goldberg said in June he was ultimately proud of his and his team’s work.
“When I was named CEO, I noted how excited I was to begin this role at such a critical time for NAR,” Goldberg said in June. “I committed to making sure this association was wholly focused on our members’ long-term success, and I’m so proud of the work my team has done to make good on that intention.”
NAR began scouting for a new CEO this summer when Goldberg announced his plans to retire in 2024. NAR said in June it would not publicly reveal search committee names despite members requesting a more transparent selection process. Inman reached out to NAR on Tuesday to ask if it would reconsider releasing search committee member names. The association did not reply.
Goldberg’s reprieve isn’t the end of NAR’s leadership woes. Several sources told Inman the association is still working on the logistics of successfully transitioning from Parcell to Kasper. Although Parcell resigned on Monday, his 15 committee liaisons are still in place since Parcell’s tenure wasn’t scheduled to end until the NAR NXT conference in Anaheim, Calif., from November 12 to 17.
Email Marian McPherson