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The San Diego Association of Realtors has tapped Saul Klein, an Internet pioneer for the real estate industry and an industry veteran for almost 50 years, as the new CEO and director of its wholly-owned multiple listing service, San Diego MLS.
SDMLS has about 12,000 subscribers in San Diego County, SDAR spokesperson Tyler Wiley told Inman. As CEO, Klein will take charge of SDMLS’s daily operations, improve the experiences of agent and broker subscribers, and “propel SDMLS into the future as a leader in delivering invaluable real estate data to its brokers, agents, and consumers alike,” SDAR said in an announcement.
According to Wiley, Klein has previously never held a staff position with SDAR or its MLS, but has been in volunteer leadership with SDAR since 1988 and a California Association of Realtors director for more than twenty years.
Before Klein, the CEO positions at SDAR and SDMLS had been filled by one person, “but with our 2024 business plan and growth objectives, the SDAR Board decided it was in the best interest of the organization to create a new permanent role,” Wiley told Inman.
Before becoming SDMLS CEO this week, Klein had been interim board chairman and SDMLS president since June 2023. According to his LinkedIn profile, he stepped into the role after the SDAR board of directors replaced the then-existing SDMLS leadership team with a new interim board of directors that month.
This followed the departure of Michael Mercurio, then the CEO of both SDAR and SDMLS, in the spring. In July, former SDAR executives filed suit against the association and Mercurio, alleging they were fired for raising concerns about Mercurio’s behavior and accusing him of using association credit cards for personal purchases, inflating his vacation time, and selling items that the association paid for on eBay.
Cory Shepard, a former SDAR director and the general manager of Coldwell Banker West, took over as the association’s CEO and in a letter posted to SDAR’s website said he was taking the situation “seriously” and was “committed to defending” SDAR’s interests. The lawsuit against Mercurio and SDAR is ongoing.
In his LinkedIn profile, Klein said he was “[r]esponsible for temporary management of SDMLS and the discovery of the current condition and re-architecture of the Leadership Team, leading to appointment of a permanent Board in December of 2023. Mission Accomplished and on to next phase of the growth of the largest MLS in San Diego County as CEO of the San Diego MLS (SDMLS), effective January 2024.”
Asked why the SDAR board replaced the SDMLS leadership team, Wiley said, “The SDAR Board of Directors was looking for a new vision and strategic direction for its wholly owned subsidiary, SDMLS, and this new strategy included a replacement of the existing Board before June.
“With Saul’s extensive background in MLS and Association management, he was a perfect fit for this new role. Only one Board member (Jessica Mushovic) before June remains on the current Board, and Jessica was the newest appointment to the previous board.”
Klein is no stranger to taking on troubled companies. In December 2007, he was appointed CEO of Point2 Technologies after a wave of executive resignations at the company.
Klein has been a licensed real estate broker in California since 1977 and served as SDAR’s president in 1993. Klein founded one of the first online real estate communities, RealTalk, for the National Association of Realtors in 1995, and created the e-PRO technology certification program for Realtors.
He worked as a consultant for the Realtor Information Network (RIN), a NAR subsidiary, in the formative days of putting property listings online and was an original member of the Realtor.com team. As CEO of Point2 Technologies, he developed “opt out syndication,” which gave MLSs and their brokers more choice regarding which listing sites to send their listings to for display.
SDAR lauded Klein as “the father of technological integration and internet adoption in the residential real estate industry” as well as “a technological pioneer and one of the first internet real estate evangelists.”
“With an unparalleled track record as a technological trailblazer in real estate and a seasoned data expert, Saul brings a wealth of experience to SDMLS,” Shepard said in a statement.
“Under his leadership, SDMLS is on the verge of implementing an innovative and carefully crafted long-term strategy, securing its ongoing status as the county’s exclusive locally owned and operated MLS.”
Klein has also served as a director for the California Association of Realtors, a member of C.A.R.’s MLS Committee, and has served on many NAR committees and forums.
“I am thrilled to once again participate in the operation and growth of the MLS in San Diego County, at this critical period in the history of MLS nationwide,” Klein said in a statement.
“San Diego is my home and where I began my real estate career forty-eight years ago. I participated in dramatic changes in MLS at various points throughout my career, and I look forward to once again playing a key role in the evolution of the MLS as CEO of SDMLS.
“Working with our new Board of Directors, our vision is to bring to the real estate professionals of San Diego County the best in MLS service, providing them with the tools they need for success in the changing world of residential real estate sales.”