BREAKING: Ebby Halliday Sells To Berkshire Hathaway Home Services of America

This story has been updated with reports from Monday’s all company meeting at The Star, where Candy Evans was the only media

Ebby Halliday Realtors announced the news to a swarming audience of 1,700 agents today at 2 p.m. They chose the Star in Frisco what other facility would hold so many?  to break the news that the company is being acquired by Berkshire Hathaway Home Services of America. CEO Ron Peltier was on hand to deliver the news and assure those in attendance that nothing would be changing, except that their parent now was a rich guy named Warren Buffett.

Ebby Halliday Realtors is the 12th largest independent brokerage firm in the United States and the largest indie in North Texas with more than 1,700 active agents. The firm was founded by a beloved icon, Ebby Halliday Acres, who lived until the age of 104, working nearly every day. Her funeral at Park Cities Baptist Church in University Park in  September 2015 was overflowing, and former First Lady Laura Bush eulogized her. Every Who’s Who in Dallas real estate attended, from Dave Perry-Miller (whose boutique luxury company Ebby acquired in 2007) to Robbie Briggs,  Allie Beth and Pierce Allman. Allie Beth Allman & Associates even took out a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News in Ebby’s honor. The Kansas native, who grew up selling Cloverine Salve, riding her pony in her rural farm community, migrated to Dallas and sold hats at a downtown department store in the 1940’s. One of her customers said something to the effect of, if she can sell my wife those dang hats, maybe she could help him sell some houses.

And thus, in 1945, began one of the greatest real estate careers, and companies, in Texas history.

I had the fortune of knowing Ebby Halliday, of interviewing her, of spending a day or two with her, of eating cake with her at her birthday parties. The one at the Meyerson was the best!  If Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says to be obsessive about customer service for success, Ebby Halliday was more than obsessive about customer service and tending lovingly those who worked around her, from her customers to the gals who steamed her famous St. John knit suits, which she loved because “they hide everything.”

Ebby Halliday built her brokerage from the ground up. She was quite simply the most beloved woman in Dallas.

For years, the rumors had been flying that the huge brokerage was selling. Who would buy it? Warren Buffett, a local group consisting of the Perots and a couple others, or Weichert Real Estate , a New Jersey-based independent firm much like Ebby, but with only 1,000 agents.

Buffett, Ebby’s friend, would often call her directly and try to talk her into selling.

“I was in her office once, and she was talking to Warren, just as easily as anything,” says an agent who prefers to remain nameless.

Says another: “There were some who were told not to exercise their options to sell their stock, because something way better was coming.”

About that stock — Ebby is an employee-owned company, but it was issued to very few people: most of the heavy holders were the original founders of the company, Ebby Halliday, Mary Frances Burleson who was her first secretary, Ron Burgert, who was a son of Ebby’s accountant and used to play in the office as a child, Maurice Acers, and a handful of others including managers.

Sources tell me Warren Buffett did try to buy Ebby first, but the price was too high, so they turned to Allie Beth Allman & Associates. In fact, today Ron Peltier said something to the effect of, “I tried once before but didn’t do a good job as a salesman.” Allie Beth had, at the time, 300 agents versus Ebby’s 1700 plus. NRT’s Coldwell Banker has also been courting Ebby. Allie Beth’s firm was a bit smaller, and gave Home Services their foot into Dallas luxury real estate. Obviously, they liked what they bought so much, one firm was just not enough. To be continued…

EH HSA Media Release May 21.Docx by Joanna England on Scribd

2 Comment

  • There is something very sad and distressing with the dissolution of long privately held companies– real estate or otherwise. Yeah, this is the way of capitalism and no doubt the owners are well compensated, but I think something is lost with the aggregation of smaller locally owned businesses. Eventually the name is tossed in the trash can and relegated to local history. You have to wonder if the company culture, philosophy and approach to business is also tossed. The acquired becomes a part of the acquirer’s business, leadership changes and the privately held business is now subject to Wall St. analysts’ predictions, quarterly financials, large stockholders and the stock price. So what this is Warren Buffet’s company. He will not live forever and his focus is on stockholder value, right? The agents’ clients are unlikely to benefit from increases in BH stock.

    Rewarding long term thinking versus short term profits disappears frequently. Public markets have a way of frequently destroying what was created in the private close-held business. Sure hope this doesn’t happy to Ebby as many years were spent in creating goodwill due to the strong presence of her name in Dallas residential real estate. Sorry, but Berkshire Hathaway just doesn’t cut it around here. I think particularly in residential, local is king. Sure the agents are local, but the company name can be a very important asset. And if the agents’ are adversely affected the changes in compensation and leadership, the most important asset of the biz will say adios.

    • mm

      Joe, thanks for this thoughtful response. I think about corporate America and how it affects our society DAILY. But I think this is a cycle. If the agents find living under the BH umbrella unpleasant, they will move. There are many, many options out there and more coming. This is an exciting time to be in Real Estate. I am thrilled and honored to be covering it.