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JUDY BENJAMIN SELLS STAKE IN REALTY FIRM
CO-OWNER PLANS TO RESUME CAREER AS FULL-TIME AGENT

Judy Benjamin, one of the area's most experienced and successful real estate brokers, will take a buyout from Stovroff and Potter Real Estate Co. Sept. 30 and return to the field as a full-time agent.

Ms. Benjamin's buyout date was pre-determined when Stovroff and Herman Realtors Inc. merged with H. Potter Realtors Inc. in 1996 to create the state's largest real estate firm. The company will repurchase her stock.

The management-succession plan will leave former Potter principal Merle Whitehead as sole owner of Stovroff & Potter, which led the area with transactions worth $792 million last year.

Former co-owner Thomas Doran took a buyout in March 1998 to pursue other interests. Louise Arnone remains a partner in Stovroff & Potter, but also has a scheduled buyout date that the company has not announced.

The management evolution of Stovroff and Potter comes as the company is locked in a continuing battle for market share with Hunt Real Estate Corp.

Hunt's business has grown by 26.6 percent since 1996, from transaction volume of $473 million to $599 million last year, according to Real Trends Inc., an independent research and publishing firm in Denver.

During the same time period, Stovroff and Potter's volume grew 13.8 percent from $696 million to $792 million, according to Real Trends. The two firms dominate the Buffalo-area market.

Stovroff and Potter hired Daniel Symoniak, former executive director of the Greater Buffalo Association of Realtors, in July as an executive vice president in charge of 17 sales offices and about 800 agents.

By retaining Ms. Benjamin, the company still has access to her network of contacts and clients. Ms. Benjamin, 60, said she looks forward to doing something she enjoys, helping people buy and sell homes.

"It will be fun, it's something I love doing," she said. "Once you have a passion for real estate, it really gets under your skin."

The 30-year pro was consistently one of the area's top performing agents from 1970 until 1983, before becoming co-owner of the former Stovroff & Herman.

"When we owned the company, there was not a more persistent salesperson. She worked all hours, there just wasn't anyone better, said Joan C. Stovroff, the former co-owner of Stovroff & Herman, who now operates Stovroff & Taylor Travel in Williamsville. "She will be nothing but successful. Anything she undertakes, she goes into it tooth and nail."

Ms. Benjamin will continue working from Stovroff & Potter's sales office at 914 Maple Road in Amherst, which she has co-managed with Hugh Hartzberg. The office was one of the company's top three producers last year with volume of $93 million.

Hartzberg will become sole manager of the office, according to Whitehead, the company's president.

Whitehead said Ms. Benjamin's deep network of contacts in Western New York has helped the company grow.

"Judy is a major contributor to the community through charity functions. She has great spheres of influence and so much of our business comes from spheres of influence," he said.

Ms. Benjamin has been an active volunteer with a number of organizations over the years, including the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, Studio Arena Theatre, the Buffalo Urban League and the Western New York Foundation.

Ms. Benjamin's daughter, Amy Benjamin, has followed her into the real estate business and is also an agent for Stovroff and Potter. Her two other children, John Benjamin and Karen Landau, are teachers.

The veteran realtor has no thoughts of retirement at this time.

"This is a logical progression for me and I've been lucky to experience so many facets of the real estate business," she said.

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