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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 14, 2008 12 years ago

She's Back

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A high-powered Florida real estate executive isreturning to the Gulf Coast after spending two years up north. She re-enters during perilous times.

She's Back

A high-powered Florida real estate executive is

returning to the Gulf Coast after spending two years up north. She re-enters during perilous times.

When Judy Green initially teamed up with her husband to start a homebuilding and real estate company, the nation's economy was in dire straits, energy policy and gas prices were a daily dinner topic and the lending arms of most banks were bone dry.

Sounds like 2008. But the year Green actually took that real estate plunge was 30 years earlier, in 1978. "The world said 'you couldn't make it,'" Green says. "It was a real bad economy."

Green more than made it. She would go on to become one of the top executives at Coldwell Banker, running the real estate giant's Florida and Texas operations. Her tenure included overseeing the purchase and merger with Arvida Residential Real Estate, one of the largest real estate corporate acquisitions ever. She was named one of the 500 most powerful women in the industry by Real Estate magazine in 2004.

Green is now back in Sarasota, at the helm of the Sarasota area's Sotheby's International Realty franchise, to be called Signature. Green takes over the franchise rights for the luxury realty firm after it terminated its agreement with Chad Roffers, who had run Sky Sotheby's International Realty.

Roffers was named one the Review's Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2008, as he led the company from $4.3 million in 2005 revenues to $17.8 million last year. But the company made some missteps that crashed head-on with the faltering Gulf Coast real estate market.

"We realize the Sotheby's name was somewhat tarnished here because of past issues," says Green. "We don't see that as an obstacle for us to overcome."

Instead, says Green, the main obstacle looms much larger: How to sell homes in a busting real estate market, during a time of great economic uncertainty. While Green stresses she will do many things differently than Roffers, including making "well thought-out business decisions," Signature will share at least one similarity: It will still cater to a luxury clientele.

The agency, which moved into a new office just south of downtown Sarasota earlier this month, will sell homes that average about $800,000 in listing prices. Signature is taking over about 300 listings from the Sky franchise and 37 of Sky's Realtors are joining the new firm.

"We have a vision for growth in many directions," Green says. "Our footprint should get larger."

One way of doing that is through the franchise agreement with Sotheby's International Realty: Green is teaming up with Donna Moore and Richard Taylor, who run Boca Grande-based Gulf to Bay Sotheby's International Realty. In addition to Boca Grande, Moore and Taylor run offices in Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Green is the managing partner of the entity.

Through this past summer Green had been working as the chief operating officer of ERA Franchise Systems, a real estate firm based in Parsippany, N.J., just outside New York City. Part of that job included helping turn around struggling real estate agencies.

But during the two years she worked in New Jersey, Green maintained her home in Sarasota, where five of her nine grandchildren live. That was one magnet pulling her back, she says.

The other was the chance to run a real estate franchise under the Sotheby's name, which, says Green, gives her clout she couldn't get with any other name. "When you compare brands," says Green, "there is no question that Sotheby's stands out nationally in the luxury market."

-Mark Gordon

Going extra

In Judy Green's 30-year real estate career that has seen several highs, one aspect that stands out is her ability to do even more than the normal hard-charging real estate executive.

For example, there was the 20 years she ran her own realty firm in Oviedo, outside Orlando. Instead of simply saying the town needed better development and growth policies, Green ran for mayor. And she was elected to a two-year term in 1993, becoming the first woman mayor in the city.

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