More than 1,500 employees have left one of the biggest real estate data firms in the country over the past year, and many say the ‘ruthless’ CEO created a toxic work environment where he openly favored young women while ridiculing others, and even pointed a gun at an executive during a Zoom call.
In interviews published by Insider, former employees each had their own horror story to tell and claimed it was a workplace where humiliation and surveillance was common, specifically by CEO Andrew Florance.
Florance, 58, who started CoStar in the basement of his father’s Washington, D.C. home, has been credited with the company’s growth. But former employees say his leadership styled paired with the pandemic has caused discontent in the company and sparked a mass exodus.
Insider reported that 1,546 workers departed the $27 billion company in 2021 — more than double the 638 who left in 2020.
Employees’ discontent with the company was also apparent in the form of memes on an Instagram account that mocks the company, many of them referencing their own experiences.
One former employee, who wished to remain anonymous, told Insider that dealing with Florance had always been difficult, but on once occasion found himself starring down the barrel of a gun.
In March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, the 39-year-old who used to be a communications director for the firm, said he was on a video call with the CEO and two other colleagues when the CEO suddenly pulled out a black semiautomatic pistol and pointed it at the screen.
‘It was inappropriate, quite jarring, and showed a complete lack of professionalism,’ the employee told Insider. ‘What if any of us had been the victims of violence in the past?’
The employee said Florance, who was working at home in rural Virginia, then put the gun down and explained he had seen bears on his property.
But the CEO also allegedly showed off his ammunition while on the call, and then months later sent a photo of a target riddled with bullets.
CoStar told Insider in a written statement that ‘the alleged incident you referenced did not occur’ and that Florance is ‘a well-trained and licensed shooter who is passionate about firearm safety.’
CEO Andrew Florance, 58, CEO of CoStar, a powerful real-estate data firm, is accused of creating a toxic work environment causing more than 1,500 employees to leave in 2021
A 39-year-old who used to be a communications director for the firm, said he was on a video call with the CEO when he pulled out a black pistol and pointed it at the screen
But the CEO also allegedly showed off his ammunition while on the call, and then months later sent a photo of a target riddled with bullets
The former communications director texted his account of the incident to a colleague at the time, in a text thread obtained by Insider.
‘I’m on a call with Andy and he’s holding a gun,’ the text read.
‘He just pointed it at the screen,’ the next text read.
The recipient replied: ‘Is it loaded?’ and then added: ‘Whaaaaat??’
The then-communications director wrote back: ‘He was playing with a bullet too,’ before adding: ‘I was terrified lol.’
He said Florance told him he had a gun because he was in the mountains and ‘you never know what’s going to be outside’.
The director was one of the 1,546 of the firm’s 4,200 US employees who resigned or were fired, in what Insider reported as its largest exodus ever, according to data provided by a current employee with access to its internal employment statistics.
In a previous Insider article, CoStar characterized the discontent as a symptom of its high performance expectations.
‘We will not apologize for these standards, nor will we compromise them to accommodate a vocal few who decide that this level of expectation is not for them,’ it said in a statement in a February statement.
But negative reviews of the company online and a meme account on Instagram say otherwise.
An Instagram account dedicated to memes mocking the company was created by Nate Peterson, who was fired in 2021, and has more than 2,300 followers.
The content is submitted by current and former employees eager to share their own experiences of working at CoStar.
An Instagram account dedicated to memes mocking the company was created by Nate Peterson, and has more than 2300 followers
Current and former employees submit content to the Instagram account which is dedicated to mocking the company
COSTAR: THE $27 BILLION COMPANY STARTED IN A BASEMENT
CoStar describes itself as the world leader in commercial real estate information and was founded by CEO Andrew Florance in 1987 in his father’s basement in Washington DC.
He borrowed $5,000 from his father Colden Florance as seed money.
It was one of the first companies that digitized and aggregated property data and raised $22.5 million in its IPO in 1998.
According to Business Insider, it started as a 145-person upstart that made less than $14 million in revenue in 1998 to boasting a staff of 4,700 and a $2 billion annual revenue in 2021.
However last year, 1,546 of the firm’s 4,200 US employees resigned or were fired.
The company conducts ongoing research to produce a comprehensive database of commercial real estate information.
In October shares hit an all-time high of a little over $100, but they have now fallen to the $60s, despite the Dow and the S&P rising.
CoStar was set up by Andrew Florance in 1987
In interviews conducted by Insider, more than 50 former employees described a toxic work environment with a ‘ruthless’ CEO who could ‘ridicule and callously fire employees and that he made workers both fearful and uncomfortable by showing ruthlessness to some and unwanted attention to others.’
One employee told Insider that while she was on a video call while working from home, she overheard Florance slam her appearance and accused her of being asleep and not paying attention, apparently unaware that his microphone was on.
She said she called him out on his comments and when the call ended and an HR employee called her to inform her she had been fired.
Five women told Insider that Florance openly favored young women in the office and made them feel uncomfortable by complimenting them on their appearance.
One woman said Florance approached her at the office and told her, ‘I want to steal you away for a few days with a few of us and lock ourselves in a room and figure out this product,’ she said he told her. ‘You can pick anywhere you want to go.’
When she jokingly suggested Europe, he responded that, ‘We’ll get the private jet.’ The trip never happened, but the woman said the encounter was awkward.
CoStar said in its statement to Insider that ‘this insinuation is categorically false and mischaracterizes the situation and the purpose and intent of the requested meeting.’
Dailymail.com has reached out to the company for comment.
CoStar disputed allegations and characterizations of the company and CEO to Insider and instead described their boss as someone who is ‘pro-family’ and ‘likes children.’
The company added that Florance has offered ‘comfort and support’ to his workers, especially those in need.
CoStar told Insider it has taken steps to improve its workplace and benefits by hiring an outside firm to run focus groups, allowing employees to work from home one day a week, and updating its parental leave policy.
CoStar disputed allegations and characterizations of the company and CEO to Insider and instead described their boss as someone who is ‘pro-family’ and ‘likes children’