Houlihan Lawrence Acquired by Warren Buffett’s Brokerage Firm

John Jordan | January 2017

Stephen Meyers, president, CEO; Nancy Seaman, former chairman; and Chris Meyers, managing principal, Houlihan Lawrence

RYE BROOK—In a surprise move, Houlihan Lawrence whose roots in Westchester County date back to 1888, has been acquired by Warren Buffet’s Home Services of America, Inc. of Minneapolis, MN.

Both parties in the transaction did not release financial terms of the deal that was announced on Tuesday, Jan. 17th.

Nancy Seaman, chairman of Houlihan Lawrence, announced simultaneously that she was stepping down from her post with the storied brokerage firm that is headquartered in Rye Brook, but for most of its history maintained its headquarters in Bronxville. Nancy and her husband Peter Bailey Seaman acquired Houlihan Lawrence in 1990. Nancy took control of the company after her husband’s death from cancer in 1994 at the age of 42. Nancy and her brothers Stephen and Chris Meyers have since shepherded the company’s growth from 600 agents, 12 offices and $375 million in annual sales in the early 1990s to 1,300 sales associates operating out of 30 offices. The firm closed $6.7 billion in sales in 2016.

Houlihan Lawrence had been until the transaction with Home Services of America, the largest independent brokerage firm in New York City’s northern suburbs. The company provides real estate brokerage services in Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties in New York and Fairfield County, CT.

Except for the change in ownership, Seaman said in a statement that all Houlihan Lawrence operations would remain the same. Stephen Meyers, president and CEO, and Chris Meyers, managing principal, will continue to lead the firm’s strategic growth initiatives and will continue to jointly manage day-to-day operations with their sales management teams. Houlihan Lawrence, like other locally-branded brokerage companies under the HomeServices umbrella, will retain its name.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties/Westchester Properties, a Wallingford, CT-based company owned by HomeServices of America, entered Westchester County in 2015 with the acquisitions of brokerages operating in Scarsdale, Larchmont and Eastchester. The brokerage expanded into Rye in 2016. The Home Services of America affiliate earlier this month entered the New York City marketplace with the launch of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New York Properties (see story on page 7).

“If not for my departure, you wouldn’t know that there was a change in ownership,” Seaman said in a statement. “I truly love and believe in this company, and am confident this decision guarantees Houlihan Lawrence as we know it—and the extraordinary culture we have built over the past 125 years—will be around for the next 125 years.” Seaman stated that she accepted the offer of billionaire Warren Buffett to acquire the firm in a deal that she said will ensure the long-term future of the company. In her statement she described Buffett as a friend and business associate of her husband Alan Schwartz, managing partner of investment banking firm Guggenheim Partners.

“We are joining an organization known for its strength and stability,” said Stephen Meyers. “Our partnership secures the future of the firm without changing the exceptional culture that is core to our storied brand. We are thrilled with this announcement and the many benefits it brings to our clients and agents.”

“When you combine the incredible strength of our people and the remarkable history of our success with the unsurpassed financial stability of HomeServices, there is no limit to what we can accomplish,” added Chris Meyers.

With its latest deal, HomeServices has nearly 29,500 real estate professionals operating in approximately 570 offices across 28 states. In 2016, the company’s associates facilitated more than $93 billion in residential real estate sales, the brokerage firm reported.

“Nancy, Stephen and Chris, together with their team of sales managers and agents, have built an extraordinary organization and exemplify a level of expertise and leadership that is second-to-none in the real estate business today,” said Ron Peltier, chairman and CEO, HomeServices of America. “Their culture of integrity and innovation closely aligns with our corporate vision and our emphasis on customer value and results.”

Houlihan Lawrence’s beginnings date back to when William Lawrence, who also founded Lawrence Hospital and Sarah Lawrence College, established Lawrence Investments in Bronxville in 1888.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth