Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO , RE/MAX
Overall Rank: 5
Category: Corporate Execs
Category Rank: 4
The most interesting man in real estate is back in the Top Five with a strong performance after his second full year in the saddle as chief of the iconic global real estate brand he founded with his wife in 1973 (NASDAQ:RMAX). In 2015, things looked uncertain as his long- time CEO Margaret Kelly stepped down in December 2014, forcing Liniger to return to active day-to-day management. The franchise giant’s over 110,000 agents in 7,250 offices do approximately 1 million annual transactions.
Since his return, RE/MAX (NASDAQ: RMAX) has been on fire. Its share price grew by more than half in 2016, from approximately $36 in January to an all-time high of $56 at press time. The company market cap climbed to above $1 billion in December 2016. Going into 2014, RE/MAX was valued at approximately $400 million. More than doubling the market cap of a company, most of it within 2016, is a significant accomplishment.
RE/MAX had a solid year. On the one hand, revenues were down 1.3 percent to $131.9 million in the first nine months of 2016 from the previous year, but most of the loss was attributable to selling off its company-owned brokerages. Adjusting for that, revenue actually grew 7.9 percent. Since agent count is the main driver for the company’s business model, the fact that it grew by 7.4 percent from the same time a year ago to more than 110,000 agents is significant. Keller Williams Realty is larger by agent count and growing faster, but RE/MAX agents are more productive per agent and the brand remains one of the most, if not the most, well-known and respected residential real estate brands in the world.
Toward the end of 2016, RE/MAX also launched a major mortgage broker franchise initiative, Motto Mortgage. RE/MAX franchisees are the initial target for mortgage play, but the company plans to make it available to non-RE/MAX brokerages in the future. Given that mortgage is expected to be a $2 trillion market in 2016, and both Realogy and HomeServices have strong mortgage operations, the push represents a strategic bet by Liniger and RE/MAX President Geoff Lewis, the person he selected to replace Kelly.
Liniger is an exceptional entrepreneurial and a tenacious leader. His packed resume includes a stint as a U.S. Air Force member. As he is also a multi-engine, instrument-rated commercial pilot, a NASCAR driver and owner, an around-the-world hot-air balloonist, a golf course owner, and co-founder of a Denver-area conservation center.