Mark Willis, CEO, Keller Williams Realty.
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Mark Willis returns to CEO role at KW 

Willis previously held the top leadership position at Keller Williams Realty from 2005-2015 and had recently rejoined the company in a consulting capacity.

November 15, 2023
3 minutes

Key points:

  • Willis first joined KW in 1991 and served in various leadership roles before his departure in 2016.
  • The appointment comes at a challenging time as the company battles multiple commissions lawsuits and navigates a tough real estate market.
  • Willis is focused on growing agent count significantly and helping existing agents thrive during this period of change in the industry.

Keller Williams has a new CEO in place — but it's a familiar role for an executive who was instrumental in the company's growth earlier this century.

Mark Willis is back in a position he held between 2005 and 2015, effectively immediately, the company announced. The role had been vacant since the departure of Carl Liebert in 2022, with Gary Keller, the company's co-founder and executive chairman, serving as CEO on an interim basis.

Willis returns to the helm during a challenging time for KW and the industry. Keller Williams was a defendant in the Sitzer/Burnett class-action commissions case, where a jury awarded damages of nearly $1.8 billion on Oct. 31. A final judgment has not yet been rendered, and appeals are expected. The company is also a defendant in the Moehrl case as well as new lawsuits introduced in the past week in South Carolina and Texas.

But Willis appears to be embracing what he calls a shifting market, and as CEO, he believes he can help agents thrive while adapting to the changes ahead. He comes into the role reinvigorated after some time away from Keller Williams and the close of a contentious chapter in his relationship with the company.

"I'm grateful that I have that gap… it gave me a fresh perspective. It gave me a true appreciation for who and what KW is," Willis told Real Estate News. "I've got a lot of energy, and I can think of no better place to concentrate that energy."

That perspective — and a depth of experience with Keller Williams unmatched by most other leaders — made Willis a good fit for the role, said Gary Keller. In announcing the appointment, Keller pointed to Willis' "deep knowledge of our company and our culture" as a key asset.

"With so much uncertainty surrounding the real estate industry today, it's never been more important to have a leader who thoroughly knows us and understands business at the highest level," said Keller. "That's Mark Willis."

The move is a "delightful surprise," said Stefan Swanepoel, founder of T3 Sixty and Real Estate News, noting that during Willis' last tenure, Keller Williams went through a significant growth period. 

"As before, he will undoubtedly have a huge impact on KW and the real estate industry in general," Swanepoel said.

Willis is looking to build on KW's growth and significantly expand its footprint. The Austin-based company currently has more than 1,100 offices and 187,000 agents, but Willis wants to grow agent count to between 250,000 and 300,000.

Willis has served in various leadership roles with Keller Williams since 1991, including regional director, operating principal, team leader, and market center and region investor. He also served as a strategic consultant for the company the past four months.

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