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Florida Realtors have new CEO, mum on predecessor’s departure

By January 30, 2015 One Comment

The 140,000 members of Florida’s statewide Realtor association are getting a new CEO — Michigan Realtors CEO Bill Martin — but leaders of the Florida association are saying little about the departure of his predecessor, John Fridlington, who worked for the association for a decade and was named CEO in 2010.

Martin, CEO of the Michigan association for the past 14 years, is a former Army paratrooper and Michigan State Police trooper who’s served in Michigan’s House of Representatives and been in charge of the state’s lottery and then its prisons.

“This opportunity is very exciting and I look forward to joining a high-performance and high-powered organization like Florida Realtors,” Martin said in a statement, noting that “I’ve gotten to know a number of Florida Realtors’ leaders over the years and there are quite a few Realtors and friends from Michigan with homes in Florida.”

Fridlington joined Florida Realtors on the eve of the housing downturn, and presided over an initiative in which the association’s now-defunct subsidiary, Real Estate Industry Solutions LLC, developed a paperless transaction management platform, Form Simplicity, that its members continue to use today.

Florida Realtors dissolved REIS in 2013, after the association posted $4 million annual deficits in 2010 and 2012.

REIS — also led by Fridlington — had planned to make Form Simplicity available nationwide, signing agreements to provide the software to members of state Realtor associations in Iowa, Massachusetts and Arkansas. But according to the Form Simplicity website, Iowa is the only state association outside of Florida using the software today.

Florida Realtors Vice President and General Counsel of Law and Policy Margy Grant said she was named interim CEO of the association last year. She could not recall if Florida Realtors issued a press release announcing Fridlington’s departure, but said members were informed.

“John was with us for over 10 years; we had an amazing relationship with him,” Grant said. “We wish him well.”

Florida Realtors President Andrew Barbar, a broker with Keller Williams Realty Services in Boca Raton, said he could not discuss the circumstances surrounding Fridlington’s departure.

“We enjoyed a very good relationship with John,” Barbar said.

Grant declined to discuss Fridlington’s compensation as Florida Realtors CEO, or what Martin’s salary will be when he starts work on March 23.

According to the Florida association’s most recent tax return, Fridlington’s total compensation for the year ending Dec. 31, 2012, was $341,001. Michigan Realtors paid Martin $369,002 in total compensation in 2013, with $276,600 in base pay supplemented by $32,485 in bonus and incentive compensation and $40,957 in retirement and other deferred compensation, according to that group’s most recent tax return.

Grant also declined to say whether Florida Realtors is once again operating in the black. Florida Realtors’ most recent tax returns — which are publicly available, because the association is a nonprofit — show that it was operating in the red in 2010 and 2012.

According to the Florida association’s 2012 tax return, expenses for the year ending Dec. 31, 2012 ($21.9 million) exceeded revenue ($17.9 million) by nearly $4 million. The association’s 2010 tax return also shows expenses exceeding revenue by $4.4 million. Florida Realtors was back in the black in 2011, with revenue exceeding expenses by $740,000.

From 2005 through 2010, Florida Realtors provided Instanet Solutions’ TransactionDesk as a member benefit, until it replaced TransactionDesk with Form Simplicity, a product developed by its own for-profit subsidiary, REIS.

In July 2010, REIS filed a copyright suit against Instanet, claiming it had used forms developed by Florida Realtors without authorization. Instanet countersued, claiming REIS developed Form Simplicity to not only replace Instanet as the provider of services to Florida Realtors, but to compete with it in the national market.

When the lawsuit was settled in 2012, terms were not disclosed.

According to Florida Realtors’ most recent tax return, REIS LLC was dissolved in June 2013. Form Simplicity is now “owned and supported” by Florida Realtors, according to the platform’s website.

Last year Instanet Solutions announced a deal to license real estate forms from Jacksonville, Florida-based Northeast Florida Association of Realtors and its multiple listing service, Northeast Florida MLS.

Grant said she could not comment on the status of specific contracts, but said Florida Realtors considers Form Simplicity “one of our most successful member benefits,” used by more than 90,000 real estate professionals.

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