The rumor mill has been working overtime when it comes to Fredrik Eklund’s recent move to Los Angeles.
Is he over the crazy pace of New York life? Is he Douglas Elliman’s not-so-secret weapon for growth in California?
Season 8 of “Million Dollar Listing New York,” which debuts tonight, promises to reveal some of the pushes and pulls behind Eklund’s transition to West Coast life. But the most significant conversations about the decision — and the big-picture plan for the fast-expanding Eklund-Gomes Team — won’t happen on Bravo.
That’s because Eklund’s longtime business partner and team co-founder, John Gomes, goes to all lengths to avoid the cameras. So much so that he and the team’s chief executive of sales & operations, Julia Spillman, even joke that they have their own show, “Million Dollar Missing.”
The two brokers recently sat down with The Real Deal in their new Flatiron office to speak frankly about what Eklund’s move means for them, their team and their business.
For Gomes, expansion is a part of a volume game and scaling up. “The truth is, for all of us, in the future, to make the kind of money we’re making today, we’re simply gonna have to do more,” he said. Both he and Eklund subscribe to the philosophy of needing to be on the ground in-person to build up their business, and are already traversing the country, flying between their offices in three cities.
With Eklund’s new homebase on the West Coast, his time will begin skewing toward L.A., but he said that he plans to spend at least four days in the Big Apple every two weeks.
“It’s part of a plan that’s been in the works for years,” Eklund said, “L.A. is having a moment right now … The scene is changing rapidly and so much wealth is concentrating there.”
Though you probably won’t see the following conversation on “Million Dollar Listing” anytime soon, Eklund confirmed that this isn’t the last time you’ll see him on TV.
“There is def more Fredrik to watch on Bravo after this season,” he wrote in an email to TRD after the interview. Whether that means on MDLNY or MDLLA, or something different altogether, remains to be seen.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
You both spend a lot of time in L.A. How did you decide who would move and why it was Fredrik?
Eklund: We talked about it, and even joked about it, like maybe we both go for a while. But it just turned out that I took on the role to go — maybe forever, maybe for a while, or maybe for a few years. We’ll see. It’s a big personal decision because of my kids and my husband having to relocate. But we felt like it was the right decision doing it now.
Gomes: Like everything else Fredrik and I do, it was an organic choice. As his best friend, I always had this feeling that he should spend some time in California. I just feel like, for many different reasons, he’s supposed to be there.
Eklund: A lot of people are asking questions. To me, it’s not that dramatic. I feel like I’ve been bi-coastal for the last year. Instead of going to L.A. every other week, I’m gonna go to New York every other week.
How does L.A. fit into your plan for the Eklund-Gomes Team?
Gomes: We’ve been waiting for the right time. I remember the down market in 2008 and 2009. We took advantage of that time to reshape our business. It’s no different now. It’s a down market and we are implementing the plan that we always had to expand.
Eklund: We want to do what we did here in New York in California. We’re very long-term there. We want to build a name for ourselves as the go-to team for new development, and I want to be able to front that.
Gomes: There’s a huge opportunity. When we started to look at the buildings there and the way people treat them, we were shocked. I know I personally was. Just looking at the renderings, the way that all the marketing collateral is done, and the sales galleries are put together, we just thought there was a tremendous opportunity to add a lot of value to that for developers.
Can you elaborate on how you’re going to bring those same methods that have served you well in New York to the L.A. market?
Gomes: Things in New York happen like this [snaps]. In L.A., it’s a little bit slower. You can take the New York agent out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the agent. I have been working in the industry for almost 15 years at quite a fast pace so it will be hard to slow that down wherever I work.
Eklund: I’m going to be there the most, so I’m not going to go there and say I’m going to do it better. Some of [this] is covered on the show — there’s been some commotion, you’ll see. I have a lot to learn and a lot of people to meet. We’re going to contribute a lot and we’re going to do really well, but it doesn’t need to be at anybody’s expense [among competitors].
Gomes: What I will say is that we didn’t spend all this time and energy and money to go and expand to these markets to not be relevant within them.
The L.A. market includes a lot of high-end single-family homes. “Going vertical” in L.A. is not really close to what it would mean in NYC. How are you going to tackle that?
Eklund: It’s something I’m currently figuring out. I am forging really amazing relationships with some of the biggest agents [and] I feel really confident that we’re gonna break into the ultra-luxury there. Anything that’s incredible and is in the new development arena in California I’m going to go after.
You recently announced that your first exclusive project in L.A. will be Townscape Partners’ condo and townhouse development 8899 Beverly and Fredrik will be the director of sales. How did that fit into your move?
Eklund: Douglas Elliman had won it, and John and I fell in love with it. We went after a lot of big people within the company and tried to convince them that we were the right people for that project. There were many meetings where we got to know [the developer], and the more I learned, the more I wanted this building. They needed to get to know me as well. Every broker knows of this project and it’s such an important one — a decade in the making.
Is this expansion coming from both of you, or is this something that Elliman is saying you should do?
Eklund: John said it the best: If we [had] known how difficult the expansion would be, we probably wouldn’t have done it. Like you can say that you have a team in Miami and you have a team in L.A., but what does that really mean for your agents? What does that mean for the seller when you’re not fully there? What made it more difficult is that as it happened, cosmically, we had twins at the same time. Literally, in the same month.
I was meaning to bring that up. Was that planned?
Gomes: Everyone thought that was the end of Eklund-Gomes! Oh god, those two? Twins? Two sets of twins?
Eklund: Two weeks after we had our twins we were back at work. That’s when we sat down with [Douglas Elliman’s chairman] Howard Lorber. That was the beginning of December 2017 and we said, “We have a great plan. We don’t know what we’re doing. But, trust us, become more of a business partner with us.” We showed him what we’re thinking and that it was right for us.
Gomes: We were really nervous going in, honestly, and we made this pitch and he asked us, “Will this make you guys happy?” We looked at each other and we said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Well that will make me happy.” And he greenlighted the whole thing. He believes in us, and that was reassuring.
Eklund: I think it [was] a good time in the company because they were about to buy the company they did in California and their presence in Miami is huge.
Gomes: That was all part of it. We never would have gone to California and Miami if Douglas Elliman didn’t exist in those two markets.
John, do you ever feel overshadowed by Fredrik’s larger-than-life TV persona and will you start playing a bigger part in running the New York office now?
Gomes: He is so damn good on television and I just have no interest. One thing I will tell you that can be a little challenging and frustrating for me sometimes is that, because of the show, people on the outside think the Eklund-Gomes Team is really the Fredrik Eklund Team. And yes, they do sometimes overlook the Gomes. People are saying “Oh, what’s gonna happen with your business now that Fredrik is gone?” It’s like, “Well, by the way, Fredrik has been bicoastal for the past 12 to 14 months anyway.”
Eklund: I think John is very good at picking up the pieces and really keeping things afloat. I have no patience and [I can] come up with a plan. But then, you know, you have to keep everything together. Over the years that’s been very important. But actually, you ask a hard question. I don’t think anyone is going to work less or more than we did, but it’s exciting to see [John], that you’re gonna have to take more of a lead here. And with the agents it’s already happening.
Gomes: We just signed an amazing project, a prime Greenwich Village condo. And [Fredrik] actually wasn’t there to pitch. So I met with the developers. We’re very transparent. None of our developers are worried. Fredrik is still going to be very much involved. If anything, [he’s] more so involved because he feels a little bit disconnected. So he wants to make sure that he has his hands in the pot, so to speak.
What are your goals for L.A.? This time in a year, what are you hoping your numbers look like?
Eklund: I want to take a low key, humble approach, and I don’t want to be held to numbers.