Kathryn Korte ’84 remembers the day she started her first job in New York City: Sept. 13, 1984. She did not know then that it would mark the beginning of a multi-decade career with the same firm: Sotheby’s International Realty.
Just a few months before, she had been a senior government major at F&M and knew she belonged in New York. “I wanted a big-city feeling,” says Korte. “I had visited New York a lot throughout college, and I knew this was where I wanted to start my career.”
Korte initially wanted to enter the publishing industry. “My dad was a textbook publisher, and I wanted to go into writing,” she says. However, after observing the long-term selling cycle in publishing, Korte quickly found herself drawn to the world of real estate, a fast-paced industry that measures its market pulse day by day and deal by deal.
Soon she found an opening at Sotheby’s International Realty, a real estate company founded by Sotheby’s auction house. “People joke that you could start in the mailroom here and end up at the top,” says Korte, who is now president and CEO.
In 1988 Korte was promoted into the corporate offices, working in human resources. In 1992 she was appointed vice president and brokerage manager of the Manhattan office. In this role Korte discovered that she loved the adrenaline of the buy-and-sell transactions, as well as the team-building environment among the brokers.
When Korte started, there were 15 selling agents in the Manhattan office and just two other branches, the Hamptons and Palm Beach, Fla. She has helped grow the business to 90 agents in Manhattan, with a total of 1,600 in 33 offices across the country.
Korte realizes what an anomaly it is now to have stayed with one company for nearly 30 years. “What’s lucky for me is that every time I felt like I wanted to do more here, I’ve been afforded that opportunity.”
In 2000 she was named executive vice president, and in 2006, president and CEO. She travels two weeks out of every month to meet agents in different cities, attends sales meetings and visits properties — and she oversees the management of the company’s brokerages nationwide. Leisure for her involves relaxing in her new Upper East Side condo, arising at 5 a.m. to her elliptical trainer and, naturally, checking out the art coming up for auction at Sotheby’s.
Korte is prouder than ever of the Sotheby’s brand. “It is known for exceptional, white-glove service. It’s discreet, it’s professional.”
Thinking back to F&M, Korte considers the link to her political science studies. “All of life is politics. Negotiating, compromise, knowing the right people, possessing the right expertise, and understanding when to say you don’t know.” It is a lesson applicable to many fields.