REcolorado Buyer Unmasked, Exposing Potential Conflicts

The sale of REcolorado, the 16th-largest MLS nationwide with 25,000 members, has become mired in controversy, as evidence suggesting conflicts of interest and self-dealing upend a transaction already wrapped in secrecy, with RISMedia confirming the previously undisclosed identity of the alleged buyer.

As previously reported by RISMedia, the REALTOR® Association owners of REcolorado®—made up of the Denver Metro Association of REALTORS® (DMAR) and the South Metro Denver REALTORS® Association (SMDRA), determined through a letter of agreement to sell REcolorado to a buyer revealed only as “J Burks.”

“J Burks” is actually Joseph E. Burks, currently serving as president of Equity Title of Colorado, according to broker Karen Frisone, a past DMAR director with knowledge of the transaction. But questions about Burks’ connections to members of the association’s boards and leadership, as well as a shell company being used to purchase REcolorado, have created significant concerns about who is benefiting from the sale.

SMDRA CEO Melissa Maldonado did not respond to inquiries and detailed questions for this story, including whether any of the association’s board or leadership stood to financially benefit from the sale. DMAR also did not respond to inquiries at press time.

Frisone tells RISMedia that she is “terrified about what’s happening,” after members of the REcolorado board resigned or were fired last Friday as SMDRA claimed they violated confidentiality agreements.

“I have a pretty good reason to believe that SMDRA has a vested financial interest (in the sale),” Frisone says.

Frisone was not present during what was allegedly a contentious back and forth over the sale of REcolorado, but says she has spoken to numerous individuals who were. Many of the board members involved in the sale have since “ghosted” her, she claims.

The connections between Burks and SMDRA or DMAR leadership are not clear, but business records reveal numerous ways the sale and the interests of board members appear to be entwined.

According to a release from SMDRA, the REcolorado buyer is legally an entity known as Mazl, LLC, with “J Burks” as the principal and creator. 

But the address used for Mazl is identical to one used by at least two businesses owned by Jay Brown, president of SMDRA. A Google search of the address leads to an office housing a brokerage named “Metro Brokers Elite,” a company whose website claims is owned by John Park—who is listed as a director at SMDRA in the organization’s tax forms, but not on its website.

Park is also the founder of a software company named RE-Sure that bills itself as a “complete real estate business management company,” registered to the same address as Mazl, LLC and Metro Brokers Elite.

In July 2023, Park informed the Colorado Secretary of State that the company was adding a new director to RE-Sure—Joseph E. Burks.

“RE-Sure is the only contract platform recommended by the SOUTH METRO DENVER REALTOR® ASSOCIATION,” the company’s website claims.

Park did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking clarification on his relationship with Burks or the REcolorado transaction.

The company Burks is currently serving as president of appears to be a subsidiary of Anywhere Real Estate, based on filings with the Colorado Secretary of State and Anywhere’s SEC filings. Anywhere did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on the transaction.

In response to text messages and voicemails from RISMedia, Burks said, “No solicitations please.”

What is at stake

SMDRA and DMAR did not respond to specific questions about the business connections between Burks, Mazl LLC and its members, and have declined to share details of the REcolorado sale, despite an outcry from brokers and agents practicing in the region. A FAQ posted on the REcolorado website claims that “the legal requirements and obligations of the sale process prevent us from sharing additional details at this time.”

The FAQ document says the sale is “the right one for the MLS” in the shadow of the National Association of REALTORS®’ (NAR) settlement and commission lawsuits, claiming that “decoupling” the MLS from the associations will protect it from future litigation or liability.

Frisone says she does not believe this, and claims that Burks’ company has backing from private equity based in New York—though she did not provide evidence for this claim. 

The REcolorado FAQ says that “(i)t’s important to clarify that MAZL is not a Private Equity Firm but rather a private entity.”

Frisone says her worry, and that of many in the area, is that the REcolorado buyer is interested in acquiring the MLSs data, which is increasingly being recognized as valuable by both those within and outside the industry.

“How will they monetize the data…and us?” she asks.

She also claims that the firing of the REcolorado board was precipitated by a conversation last Friday involving some 25 former REcolorado leaders with real estate pundit Rob Hahn, who back in 2021 had spoken to REcolorado and “warned us…that (MLS) boards are susceptible to hostile takeovers.”

Those REcolorado members wanted to ask for Hahn’s advice, but Frisone speculates that someone might have relayed the substance of the conversation to SMDRA and DMAR.

Frisone also noted that DMAR has a meeting on July 17 to approve new bylaws, and is, therefore, trying to push the sale through by July 15.

If the REcolorado sale is based on the value of the data, and if the state associations are taking money or profiting, Frisone says they are “violating their fiduciary responsibility,” calling the deal “corporate espionage,” and should involve the attorney general.

Frisone herself has a history as a whistleblower, having pushed back against alleged fraud committed by Fannie Mae back in 2014.

Whether or not the business connections between SMDRA, DMAR, Burks and Mazl LLC constitute any sort of impropriety is far from clear, but Frisone says that regardless, she worries that the irreplaceable services provided by the MLS are in jeopardy—and even the foundation of open data sharing in the industry.

“The asset is a vital utility to practicing our profession,” she says. “The system in place for syndicating to portals and IDX contracts is all subject to change. They’re not obligated to the rules in place to protect consumers. All the things we do to present data accurately could potentially go away.”

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