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Gary Keller steps back from Keller Williams amid major corporate restructuring

Keller Williams Realty will no longer have a CEO

Keller Williams co-founder Gary Keller has stepped down as CEO amid a broader corporate restructuring that will see the creation of a new holding company, KWx, and a new CEO.

In an email to Keller Williams’ leaders and agents Wednesday morning, Keller said the announcement is “one I have been working toward for many months and am confident will mark the next chapter in the history of Keller Williams.”

KWx will house all of Keller Williams’ affiliates and subsidiaries, including Keller Williams Realty, Keller Williams Worldwide, Keller Mortgage, Keller Covered and Keller Offers, and will “create alignment, scale and efficiencies across the Keller Williams ecosystem,” the company said in a news release.

“This move will allow me the opportunity to get back to my passion – placing my focus on the vision for our industry, consulting our amazing agents and leaders, and building the models and systems for tomorrow’s real estate environment,” Keller said in the email.

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In January 2019, Keller, a charismatic Texan who co-founded the company in 1983, took back control of the brokerage from longtime employee John Davis, who had been CEO for just two years. At the time, the residential brokerage industry was grappling with a wave of consolidation, disruptions in technology, poaching wars and slowing growth.

Keller, who has pivoted multiple times during his decades at Keller Williams, re-emerged that winter to win back market share for the franchise brokerage. The list of challenges was long: some of its best agents had been recruited away by upstart rivals like virtual brokerage eXp Realty (which also has a profit-sharing model), Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, and Compass. And Keller Williams had also been slow to adapt to shifts in technology.

Since Keller returned to the driver’s seat, he’s made a $1 billion bet on Keller Williams building out its own technology platform. In the last few years, Keller Williams has launched a CRM hub called Command and an internal comms platform for agents called Connect. Keller Williams has also invested in a relationship with Facebook, which it says has been a “key contributor” in helping Keller Williams agents getting leads at cheap prices.

As Keller steps down, Keller Williams President Josh Team assumes all duties and responsibilities previously held by Keller. The move means Keller Williams Realty itself will no longer have a CEO.

In turn, Carl Liebert has been appointed as CEO of KWx, bringing with him over 30 years of experience developing strategies and operations in retail including 24 Hour Fitness, The Home Depot, USAA and General Electric.

Keller will be hoping this stint is far more successful than Liebert’s last gig. After just four months on the job, Liebert was fired as CEO of AutoNation in July 2019. AutoNation executive chairman Mike Jackson later told the Sun-Sentinel last year that it was “not a good fit.”

Keller said he had always anticipated leaving the CEO position.

“As President, and in partnership with each of you, Josh has successfully led Keller Williams Realty to achieve record-level success across all major KPIs of our business,” Keller said in the email. “From the time I took over the CEO position, my goal was to move into the role of Executive Chairman. Josh has made that move possible more quickly and confidently than I could have imagined.”

Keller Williams, a privately-held company, reported in August that its North American agents closed 272,000 deals during the second quarter, for a sales volume of $85.3 billion. That was down 15% from the prior year.

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