Purported sale of REcolorado MLS to private equity firm surprises board

By Real Estate News

The primary shareholders of REcolorado — the Denver Metro Association of Realtors (DMAR) and the South Metro Denver Realtor Association (SMDRA) — have agreed to sell the company to a private equity investor outside the industry, despite ongoing negotiations with REcolorado’s management and board members to buy back their shares, the vice chair of REcolorado has told HousingWire.

News of the deal, which the board learned about late last week, surprised the MLS executives who had been approached by the shareholders in January. Those executives include President and CEO Gene Millman and Chief Operating Officer Leesa Baker.

“This was done without our knowledge, without our input, nor were we given the ability to compete,” said Shelly Vincent, vice chair of REcolorado and vice president of operations and employing broker for HomeSmart in Colorado.

HousingWire has reached out to DMAR and SMDRA for comment.

REcolorado is the 16th largest MLS in the country with 25,000 members. Things had been tense between the Realtor association shareholders and the company’s management and board for some time, Vincent said. The associations even rewrote the company’s bylaws in 2023.

So when the shareholders offered to let the MLS buy itself out, “we jumped at the chance,” Vincent said. She and Mark Trenka, board chair, were elected by the board to represent REcolorado in the negotiations. REcolorado submitted an offer and then accepted a counteroffer in writing in February before the shareholders stopped communicating, Vincent said.

The executives now know that the private equity company buying the MLS was formed in January, Vincent said.

“We are working with our attorneys on the legality of it and the very strong possibility of legal action,” Vincent said.

When the management and board of REcolorado received the letter of intent (LOI) to buy REcolorado from the private equity firm, the terms had been redacted and it asked for details on the severance packages for Millman and Baker. There is some question on how long REcolorado will remain an MLS, Vincent said.

“We’re one of the very largest MLSs in the nation. We have 25,000 subscribers, but we don’t know what’s going to happen to the SERPs (search engine results pages),” Vincent said. “At this time, with all the lawsuits going on, we’re trying to maintain memberships. I represent 2,500 agents: What am I supposed to tell them?”