All of capitalism bows to Warren Buffett, and now the most famous name in money-making is going to become part of the marketing clout of a Jackson real estate firm.
Brokers of Jackson Hole has signed on as an affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, the realty firm owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the megaconglomerate that Buffet nurtured over 50 years from a bankrupt shirt maker to a multinational holding company valued at about $500 billion.
Along the way Buffett has become the best-known businessman in the world and made his name synonymous with profit and rectitude.
The association can't hurt.
"We're hoping it's worth something" to be affiliated, Brokers of Jackson Hole part-owner Kurt Harland said — and laughed, knowing that he doesn't have to hope much.
"We're trying to grow the business, and Berkshire was an obvious choice," Harland said Tuesday. "It's No. 1 on Barrons' list of the most respected companies, and eighth on the Fortune magazine list of respected companies.
"Berkshire has the integrity and the strength and prestige, everything you would need in any market. There's some real pull there."
He said Berkshire did a thorough examination of Brokers of Jackson Hole before agreeing to the link: "They're not going to lend their name to something without knowing it well," he said. "They're very particular about the markets they choose and the people they choose."
The Berkshire and Buffett names are a big help, Harland said, but the network will also provide a boost through advertising and marketing in print and on the Internet.
Another advantage is the loyalty of Berkshire Hathaway owners. Last year's annual Berekshire meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, drew 40,000 shareholders, and those people often choose to deal with Berkshire companies rather than competitors. Berkshire ownings include Geico, Fruit of the Loom, BNSF Railway (formerly Burlington Northern Santa Fe), Dairy Queen, See's Candies, Clayton Homes, NetJets, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Duracell and dozens of other companies.
"Berkshire owners tend to go with other Berkshire companies, and that should help our business," Harland said.
But while Berkshire Hathaway is likely to help Brokers of Jackson Hole, the giant is the newcomer. Berkshire got into real estate a bit less than two years ago, starting with a big chunk of the Prudential network. Brokers of Jackson Hole changed ownership and its name two years ago but only after doing business for more than 30 years as Art Hazen Real Estate.
Harland and Penny Gaitan are the majority owners. Other owners are Tim Mayo, Jack Stout, Doug Herrick, Zachary Smith, Jennifer Reicherts and Courtney Campbell, who is also the responsible broker. Associates are John Sloan, DeeAnn Sloan, Nicole Gaitan, Karin Sieber, Saam Reece, Randy DePree and John McNaughton.
Harland has had his real estate license close to a decade but has worked full-time at the business only since investing in Brokers of Jackson Hole. He was first lured to real estate when he was a ski instructor at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and students began asking him about real estate, and then to help them.
He also ran Three Seasons Construction. This is the first summer in years, he said, that he isn't building a house, apparently having other things on his mind.
Christie's honors Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates
Elsewhere in the affiliations front, Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates showed its competitive strength two weeks ago when it was chosen as the Overall Affiliate of the Year for 2014 by Christie's International Real Estate.
Julie Faupel, head of the Christie's office in Jackson, said the award was "a total surprise" at the Christie's annual conference in Beverly Hills, California. The Jackson office also won the award in 2011.
"It's an incredible, prestigious honor and we have won it twice," she said, "and we're the only company that won the global affiliate of the year award two times."
Christie's judged its 138 affiliates based on marketing creativity and community involvement, among other things, Faupel said.
"They took into consideration our overall client service, our use of the Christie's brand and our overall ambassadorship of Christie's and its 250-year-old trust," she said.
"You're being recognized for your innovation in the industry," Faupel said, "and after you win you have to think about 'What do we do next?'"
Christie's added real estate to its traditional auction business about 20 years ago when it acquired the Great Estates firm in New Mexico. It now has affiliates in 46 countries.
Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates joined Christie's 17 years ago, Faupel said. The Jackson firm has about a hundred people and did close to $500 million business last year.