"Corcoran 50 years" over an aerial image of Manhattan.
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News; Shutterstock

Corcoran's five decades of female leadership 

In 1973, with a $1000 loan, Barbara Corcoran launched what would become a global luxury real estate company. And it's always had a woman at the helm.

April 22, 2023
4 minutes

As the Corcoran Group celebrates its 50th year, the company's origin story may be the stuff of real estate legend, but it's no fairy tale.

With five decades of women leading the now-international company, it's clear there are no princesses in need of saving here.

"The impact of having a woman be at the helm has been significant, bringing fresh perspectives and driving innovation not only within the company, but also across the industry," said Corcoran Group's president and CEO Pam Liebman. 

"The real estate brokerage leadership space was predominantly male dominated, especially in 1973," she said. "So for Corcoran to have been a female-led company for five decades is something that I am very proud of."

In 1973, Barbara Corcoran, a waitress-turned-real-estate-receptionist took out a $1,000 loan to start the company. She sold the brand to NRT, now Anywhere, in 2001 for $66 million. Today it is an international brand with more than $30 billion in annual sales.

Leibman, who started with the firm as an agent in 1984 and moved up the ranks, took over as president and CEO in 2000.

She says being women-led may have been an obstacle in some ways, but it helped the company in the long run. "Our determination to overcome industry biases fueled our hard work and ultimately, contributed to the company's success."

But simply installing women in leadership won't replicate Corcoran's success.

"I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all answer to how women-led companies are different, but as female leaders, Barbara and I both brought unique strengths and perspectives to the company," she said. "Our strong focus on diversity and inclusivity drove us to create a workplace culture that values authenticity."

Innovation in marketing has also been a hallmark of the Corcoran brand over the past 50 years. In 1981, the company launched The Corcoran Report to cover New York City real estate trends. It was the first report of its kind.

And in 1990, Liebman, a real estate agent at the time, created Corcoran Marketing Group, a division dedicated to the planning, design, marketing and sales of residential new development projects. 

A year later, with NYC real estate in a serious dry spell, the company tried an unheard-of "one-day sale." Propelled by word of mouth, the sale discounted 87 apartments in 17 buildings. Every unit was under contract within 24 hours.

In 2003, Corcoran became the first Manhattan real estate brokerage to come online with Corcoran.com in 2003. The affiliate program launched in 2020, making Corcoran a name outside its hometown.

Still, as a New York-based firm, Corcoran has felt some of the last half-century's most historic events up close.

"Everyone who works at The Corcoran Group put their heart and soul into the business," said Barbara Corcoran. "We were able to attract and keep the best people, and it was the herculean efforts of our people that got us through all the tough times and pushed us ahead in good times. We survived the city's bankruptcy, the stock market crash, the AIDS epidemic, and 9/11."

As Corcoran continues to expand, most recently into Europe, Liebman says the company's colorful and exciting past is simply a prelude to what's next.

"I'm very proud of our legacy and I'm confident that Corcoran will continue to shape the future of real estate for another 50 years and beyond," she said. "The Corcoran Affiliate Network is only getting bigger and we're not driven by what might be considered a traditional growth trajectory for growing a franchise network — this isn't just a numbers game for us. We're focused on finding the right people in the right markets."

And as the company she leads enters its sixth decade, Liebman says she recognizes the work of those who came before and hopes to inspire the women leaders of the future.

"You can't lead a company as a female without recognizing the contributions of those who have paved the path before you, alongside you, and will continue to do so in the future," Liebman said. 

"Women need mentorship from other women. It is crucial in breaking down barriers and challenging stereotypes about women's leadership abilities, paving the way for more women to succeed in leadership roles."

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