Your salary was probably higher than Dave Liniger’s



  • Denver-based RE/MAX releases its 3rd Quarter earnings.
  • Net profits up 82.6%
  • Dave Liniger gives an exclusive interview. 
Dave Liniger

Dave Liniger

The line item in the third-quarter earnings report released on Thursday by Denver-based RE/MAX Holdings Inc. is titled: “Chairman executive compensation.”

No dollar amount was listed for the third quarter or for the first nine months of the year, for the giant real estate franchise brokerage company, which saw its net profits rise by 82.6 percent in the third quarter from the third quarter of 2013.

A footnote in the explains that Dave Liniger, chairman and co-founder and his wife, Gail Linger, vice chair and also a co-founder, have not been paid since the initial public offering, which took place in October 2013 “and will not be paid in future periods.”

In other words, they are working for free at the company they founded in Denver in 1973. They are the largest single shareholders in the company.

Dave Liniger told when the company went public that he probably wouldn’t take a salary.

On Thursday, he confirmed that in a phone interview from Washington, D.C., where he gave a talk to a trade group on what he thinks about Zillow-Trulia merger.

“When we did the IPO road show, we said we were semi-retired from the company and had been semi-retired from the company for several years,” Liniger said.

Most of their income from RE/MAX for the past several years had been from payouts that were the equivalent of dividends when RE/MAX was a subchapter S corporation before it went public and was traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol RMAX.

He said while he will continue to speak on behalf of RE/MAX an promote it, his income going forward will be from dividends.

“That frees up our really great management team to continue to run the company,” Liniger said.

Dave Liniger, co-founder and chairman of Denver-based RE/MAX isn't taking a salary.

Dave Liniger, co-founder and chairman of Denver-based RE/MAX isn’t taking a salary.

He noted that when he was out of commission for almost two years because of a life-threatening illness, “the management team did a great job and ran the company very smoothly without me.”

The Linigers join high-profile executives who work for nothing or $1 per year, including Larry Ellison, who is stepping down as the CEO of Oracle Corp.; Elan Musk, founder of Tesla Motors; and the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Corp.

However, just because they don’t receive  a salary, doesn’t mean they don’t make any money from their company.

Last year, Ellison, for example, who owns 24 percent of Oracle, received $78.4 million in compensation from the computer technology company, down 18 percent from the $96.2 million he received in 2012.

Liniger, however, said that he won’t be rewarded in a similar fashion.

“No, that’s not my style,” Liniger said. “Never has been and never will. Gail and I are in a stage of our lives where we are more focused on figuring out good ways to give away our money (to worthy causes) than to accumulate more wealth.”

Robert A. Smith, who is the chairman and CEO of Realogy Holdings Inc., which owns well-known real estate brands such as Century 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA and Better Homes & Gardens, last year received total compensation of just under $24 million.

Smith had a base salary of $1 million and earned a $100,000 bonus last year. Most of his pay came from stock options.

There can be several reasons why a super-wealthy business person won’t accept a salary, said Mark Levine, a professor and endowed chair at the Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management, at the University of Denver.

“I’ve never talked to Dave about that, although I speak with him from time to time,” Levine said.

However, generally speaking it can be a combination of altruism, PR and economics, he said.

“I’m not saying people aren’t being altruistic, but it can be good PR,” Levine said.

Also, for the rich, they can basically lose 50 percent of their salary to taxes, so why bother?

“Why collect a salary of $500,000 or $1 million, when you have to pay taxes on it? If you own $100 million worth of stock, and it goes up 1 percent, there’s your $1 million,” Levine said.

“It’s kind of hard for me to comprehend, because I am not in that situation. But there is nothing wrong with that approach,” Levine said.

Meanwhile, RE/MAX on Thursday reported net income of $14.1 million in the third quarter, an increase of $6.4 million from about $7.7 million the third quarter of 201.

The increase was primarily due to higher operating income and lower interest expense as a result of the company’s 2013 debt refinancing, RE/MAX said in the filing. It was partially offset by losses associated with foreign currency transactions and a higher provision for income taxes.

Shaun White, a RE/MAX spokesman, noted as a franchise company, “our revenues are not tied to broker transactions and market conditions,” he said. “We get a little from commissions, but most of our revenues come from brokers paying franchise fees. That is a little different from the Realogies and the traditional real estate brokerage model.”

RE/MAX revenues rose 9.7 percent to $44.24 million, or 43 cents per share. That beat the consensus prediction by analysts by three cents, according to news reports.

RE/MAX also announced that it had 97,647 agents worldwide, up 5.3 percent from the  92,731 at the end of September 2013.

‘Our continued efforts to bring value to our agents and brokers, resulted in strong agent gain in the U.S. and across our network during the quarter,” said Margaret Kelly, CEO of RE/MAX.

“While the housing market continues to be mixed, our business fundamentals remain solid,” Kelly continued.

“As a result, we expect to deliver agent count and revenue at the high-end of our full year outlook and we are improving our expense and Adjusted EBITDA margin estimates for the full year,” she added.

“We continue to direct our resources to the opportunities that we believe will allow us to grow over the long-term.”

RE/MAX’s stock price on Thursday closed down 2.2 percent to $29.84. This year it has traded between $25.90 and $32.77. It went public at $22.

Separately, as far the Zillow-Trulia merger, the issued that Liniger addressed in the nation’s capitol on Thursday, Liniger said he couldn’t care less.

“They are service providers, collecting advertising dollars; they’re like an online newspaper trying to get advertising. They aren’t real estate companies. They aren’t competitors.”

Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at is sponsored by Universal Lending, Land Title Guarantee Co. and 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.


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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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