EXp President of Operations Heads To Keller Williams As Rivalry Heats Up

EXp President of Operations Stacey Onnen is going to Keller Williams, it was announced Friday, two days after eXp World Holdings founder Glenn Sanford raised issues over recruitment in a tweet.

The battle for talent between Keller Williams and eXp Realty took a dramatic turn Friday after EXp Realty President Stacey Onnen announced she was heading to Keller Williams as the brokerage’s new head of business operations.

The news came just two days after an ambiguous tweet alluding to a potential legal battle over agent recruitment by eXp World Holdings founder Glenn Sanford sent tremors across a sliver of the internet as real estate professionals attempted to guess the target of the former Keller Williams agent’s ire.

Onnen joined Keller Williams in 2008 when she served as the trainer and associate broker for Prescott-based Keller Williams Check Realty. Seven years later, Onnen left real estate sales to take on a regional director role at Realty ONE Group, which paved the path for her to become the senior vice president of brokerage operations for eXp in 2018.

Stacey Onnen | Credit: KW

“I’m excited to be a part of Keller Williams, where the culture is second to none,” Onnen said in an early morning statement Friday. “More so today than ever before, I believe that Keller Williams represents the real estate company of the future.”

In March 2019, Sanford tapped Onnen and Dave Conord to lead eXp’s brokerage operations as co-presidents. “Stacey is a successful and trusted leader and brings a reputation for developing people and inspiring teams,” Sanford said of Onnen at the time.

A month later, Onnen took on the president role as a solo act, where she helped the brokerage grow to the behemoth it is today. In November, the company’s third-quarter 2021 earnings revealed a whopping 97 percent year-over-year revenue growth and a staggering 82 percent year-over-year agent and broker count growth.

“We believe healthy competition is what evolves the real estate industry and we wish Stacey Onnen well,” eXp World Holdings Chief Marketing Officer Courtney Chakarun told Inman of Onnen’s contributions. “eXp Realty has a strong leadership team to continue our incredible growth trajectory.”

Kwx CEO Carl Liebert said Onnen’s track record at eXp made her the best candidate to lead Keller Williams’ business operations, as they continue to deliver on its tech pivot. In December, Keller Williams President Marc King said the brokerage would be on the hunt for more talent with a premium on leaders who have had previous real estate sales experience, like Onnen.

“Renowned for an ability to operationally scale brokerages through periods of rapid growth, Stacey stands apart as a strong leader in our industry and we’re proud she has chosen to bring her extensive knowledge and skills to Keller Williams,” Liebert said.

“Stacey has devoted her entire professional life to the service of her fellow real estate agents and the betterment of the entire real estate industry,” kwx Chairman Gary Keller said. “I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to be in business with her.”

Onnen’s hiring announcement comes two days after EXp World Holdings founder Glenn Sanford sparked speculation with a tweet about a competitor who “diminished” him in the past taking legal action “to try to keep former team members from joining the team.”

Sanford refused to name who the competitor was, and a spokesperson declined to identify the brokerage, but commenters quickly assumed he was talking about Keller Williams, as both brokerages have maintained an intense rivalry since Keller’s Inman Connect San Francisco 2018 appearance where he said he “didn’t care” about Sanford, a former top-producing Keller Williams team leader.

“Glenn was intentionally vague because the matter is in the court system right now,” an eXp company spokesperson familiar with the matter told Inman on Thursday. “We are not at liberty to expand upon this until we get more clarity in the courts. When we have more information to share, we will share it.”

Keller and Sanford’s relationship has remained contentious over the past several years, with both men dismissing each other over market share, the long-term viability of their business models and the quality of their technology.

In the early 2000s, Sanford led a top-producing team at Keller Williams. However, Keller reportedly snubbed Sanford by not including him in an elite company group.

By 2018, tensions were on public display. During a session of Inman Connect Now in San Francisco, Brad Inman mentioned to Gary Keller that Sanford spoke highly of him. Keller dismissed the praise.

“Love it, great. Good for him,” Keller deadpanned at the time. “I don’t care.”

Keller went on to seemingly suggest Sanford should return the money he earned via Keller Williams’ profit share program.

Sanford appeared at Inman Connect a day later and remained calm, but suggested Keller Williams’ technology was behind the curve. Sanford has also purportedly been motivated by a drive to beat Keller, his former mentor.

The simmering feud escalated further in 2019, when leaked audio from a Keller Williams meeting caught Keller criticizing eXp’s technology.

“It’s old game technology. That’s their digital cloud-based platform,” Keller said of eXp’s virtual world. “Old gaming technology. All you have to do is go look at your Sony PlayStation, or your Xbox, and then go look at that — it’s like you’re looking at Donkey Kong or Pac-Man technology.”


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