FirstTeam Sheds Christie’s Affiliation, Names New CEO

CEO, Michele Harrington & Founder / Chairman of the Board, Cameron Merage

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First Team Real Estate, the largest privately held brokerage in the state of California, has left the Christie’s International Real Estate network and promoted Michele Harrington to CEO, the company told Inman exclusively.

With its transition away from Christie’s International Real Estate, the brokerage is also launching a brand refresh to symbolize a commitment to its independence and the “agent first” model it pioneered when the company started back in 1976.

“Christie’s will be a great franchise, but First Team is something different from that,” First Team founder Cameron Merage said in a statement. “We felt that our independence is what got us to where we are today and what will enable us to continue innovating on behalf of our agents. We provide them with what they need to grow their businesses, offering the opportunity to be part of a great company culture while empowering them to develop their own teams.”

As the market continues to prove challenging for agents during this time, First Team is doubling down on the company’s brand and specialty marketing programs, as well as training and coaching for agents. First Team is also providing new options to agents for marketing qualified luxury listings through the firm’s affiliation with Luxury Portfolio International.

Harrington joined First Team when the firm she owned at the time, Star Estates, was acquired by the company in 2018. Since then, she has served in roles as managing broker, and most recently, chief operating officer.

A press release noted that the firm’s rebrand would also serve to solidify its positioning as a leader in the luxury real estate space while maintaining a brand that translates across all price points. First Team is a founding member of Luxury Portfolio International.

“I’m excited not only to launch our new look but also our brand mantra, ‘Behind the Agent,’” Harrington said in a statement. “We have always been a company focused on building agents’ businesses, and now we are promoting what we stand for. We are a company made by Realtors for Realtors, which is exceedingly rare in our industry today.”

Christie’s International Real Estate replied in a statement sent to Inman that the parting of ways was “mutual.”

“Orange County includes some of the most high-end markets in the U.S., and as a luxury brand, Christie’s International Real Estate is focused on building our network, here and around the world, with next-generation, independent firms that embrace luxury, technology, white glove service, and the unique opportunities that arise from our partnership with Christie’s auction house,” the statement read. “We appreciate First Team’s years in the network; however, we are excited to announce, in the near future, a new affiliate that will enhance the level of luxury service in Orange County and extend our brand into San Diego.”

First Team affiliated with Christie’s International Real Estate about 10 years ago. Merage founded the brokerage in 1976 and served as CEO throughout that time. Now he will transition into an advisory role as chairman of the board.

First Team currently has about 30 offices with roughly 2,000 real estate agents across Orange County, L.A. County, Inland Empire and San Diego County.