EXCLUSIVE: New Xceligent Head Frank Anton On Curry's Exit, Where The Company Goes From Here
Eighteen years after Doug Curry founded Xceligent in Kansas City, Missouri, the data firm that is battling CoStar in federal court has a new leader, former Hanley Wood CEO Frank Anton.
As Daily Mail General Trust — the owner of Xceligent and commercial property data firms Trepp, SiteCompli and BuildFax — announced Anton as Xceligent's new executive chairman, Anton spoke with Bisnow about his new role, the company's direction and the future of the company's legal fight.
DMGT hired Anton as an outside consultant about two months ago to help it formulate a three-year business plan that included Xceligent's expansion into the country's biggest cities and a path to profitability, he said.
Around that time, independently of Anton, Curry and DMGT held discussions about the future of the company, he said. Those talks culminated on Monday when Curry officially left the company, along with his wife, Erin, who had been Xceligent's chief people officer. Anton said he had his first meetings with the company's management and leadership on Tuesday.
Anton, who holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, served as Hanley Wood CEO from 2005 to 2012 after starting as editor and publisher at BUILDER Magazine. He retired to a chairman, then vice chairman role at the residential and construction media company.
Neither DMGT nor Anton gave a reason for Curry's departure, and Curry declined to comment for the story. But industry sources who work with Xceligent told Bisnow its expansion plans were progressing slowly and expensively. As of this summer, DMGT had spent $150M on expanding into New York City and preparing to launch in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia and CoStar's home city of Washington, D.C.
"What’s going on at Xceligent now is a process that started almost a couple of months ago," Anton said. "DMGT is still wholly committed to the business. They want the business to grow, they want the business to profit and they want a business plan that guarantees that as much as possible."
Anton said repeatedly that there was no connection between Curry's departure and Xceligent's high-profile legal battle with CoStar. Xceligent suffered a setback in that case when a federal judge in Pennsylvania on Monday accepted an Xceligent contractor's testimony that it had both stolen CoStar data and that Curry himself visited the company to show them how to do it.
"I want to be perfectly clear about that. There is absolutely, positively no connection between the judge’s ruling and Doug and Erin leaving the business," Anton said. "The timing of the decision [to let go of Curry] and the [judge's] ruling was total coincidence."
In a prepared statement that was included in the announcement of the personnel change, Curry said, "Now is the right time for me to step aside and pursue new opportunities, allowing a new leadership team to guide the company forward through its next chapter."
Anton distanced himself from the legal tussle, in which CoStar is suing Xceligent for stealing its intellectual property. Xceligent is countersuing, claiming CoStar has engaged in years of anti-competitive behavior. Xceligent's claims include allegations that CoStar has been falsifying data, intimidating competitors with lawsuits and violating a 2012 Federal Trade Commission ruling that forced LoopNet, which owned Xceligent, to spin it off and sell it to DMGT. The FTC ruling also placed restrictions on CoStar and LoopNet's future growth and behavior toward its competitor.
Anton said he could not comment on Xceligent's plans for the future because they are not developed yet. He said the company is trying to grow in New York City, where it launched this summer, and is preparing to launch in Chicago.
"Nobody here is of the mind that CoStar is not a worthy competitor, but we’re making headway," he said. "It’s a David and Goliath story, but David eventually won that battle."
While Curry had been the face of Xceligent until this week, Anton said the company's clients and employees should expect business as usual. Chief Operating Officer Jody Vanarsdale has been named interim CEO, and Anton said he does not expect further personnel shakeups.
"Founders leave companies all the time," he said. "Certainly people have relationships, but in the end, people don’t buy on the basis of relationships, they buy on the basis of buying something that delivers value to them."
Anton said he did not expect DMGT to settle with CoStar, but did not rule that out as an option, as Curry did this summer when he discussed the suit with Bisnow. Curry positioned the suit as a fight for the future of commercial real estate information, and vowed to follow through until a judge had issued a ruling. The former CEO also planned on a nationwide speaking tour to rally support to the cause. Anton will not take that baton.
"I don’t have a measure of passion," he said. "I said when I was getting divorced that I would never do this or that. I don’t know [CoStar CEO] Andy Florance. I know who Andy Florance is and I’ve shaken his hand. If there was a personal feud between Doug and Andy, I’m not part of that, I don’t know much about it and I don’t think it’s terribly relevant."
When asked if he felt CoStar is a monopoly — the basis of Xceligent's countersuit — Anton demurred.
"They’re the dominant player in the space. I don’t know ... Monopoly is kind of a legal term more than anything else," he said. "You’re really not allowed to be a monopoly in the United States. I don’t think they would call themselves a monopoly. They’re big, they’re dominant. And the world turns."
CORRECTION, OCT. 25, 12:05 P.M. ET: DMGT owns a minority stake in Real Capital Analytics. A previous version misstated the extent of DMGT's ownership in the company. RCA is privately held. This story has been updated.