Wearing a rolled up checkered-shirt, gesticulating wildly with one arm, 61-year-old Jack Ryan is an unlikely torchbearer to storm the gates of the residential real estate establishment, and its 5% average real commission on home sales.
Ryan – who is not to be confused with the fictional Ryanverse created by Tom Clancy – gained fleeting national attention in 2004 when he secured the Republican nomination for a vacant U.S. Senate in Illinois.
He had made millions of dollars as a banker at Goldman Sachs, quit that firm to become a Chicago school teacher, and was set to take on Democratic nominee Barack Obama. But court records from Ryan’s divorce were unsealed in which Ryan’s ex-wife, the actress Geri Ryan, accused him of pressuring her to visit sex clubs. The fallout was enough for Ryan to drop out of the race.
Ryan became an entrepreneur. He started 22nd Century Media, a hyperlocal news company to serve the Chicagoland area that folded last year. But Ryan had already left 22nd Century Media in 2015 to start the Austin, Texas-headquartered residential brokerage Real Estate Exchange, or REX.
Now, the word “disruptor” is cliché in business. But if there ever was a company with a deliberately disruptive business strategy, REX is it. They file lawsuits against the industry’s biggest players – the National Association of Realtors, Zillow – and feed the U.S. Justice Department information, so they can also sue the NAR.