Money

How Barbara Corcoran made $66 million in one year

Self-made millionaire Barbara Corcoran gradually built up The Corcoran Group and then sold it for an astounding $66 million in 2001. But the initial offer, which Corcoran received while on a ski lift, was one-third of that.

The buyer, NRT, originally bid $22 million, she tells journalist Farnoosh Torabi for CNBC Make It, and Corcoran wasn't impressed: "I said, 'It's worth $66 million. Call me when you get $66 million.'"

Corcoran didn't think of it as tripling the initial offer. In fact, the price she named came from the fact that "six was my lucky number," she tells Torabi. And "I didn't want to say, 'Call me when you get $6 million.'"

The deal went through for $66 million.

Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group and "Shark Tank" investor
Todd Wawrychuk | Getty Images
Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group and "Shark Tank" investor

Corcoran didn't know it at the time but the money would come in two installments: $44 million right away and $22 million a couple of months later.

"I didn't know where the money went at the closing," she recalls. "It didn't dawn on me. It was such a day of commotion. … And I was trusting the people representing me. I left and I and was like, 'I can't believe that I sold my business my $66 million.' It seemed like I was living in somebody else's body. That kind of feeling."

The next morning, she went to a Citibank machine to withdraw her weekly allowance: "I popped in my little cash card. I always got $200 a week and it was my day to get the $200. That was my pocket cash." Right before tossing the receipt, she says, "I looked at it and I had $44 million in my checking account!"

"It seemed so unbelievable to me," she continues. "That's when it hit me, you know, it hit me: I'm in a different position now. I can do whatever I want."

Selling her company was also scary, Corcoran adds: "When you build a business, it's an extension of your body and your soul and your mind every day. … You're emotionally tied to that business." Plus, it was hard "ego-wise, to go from being a big shot one day with the press calling you for your opinion on the real estate market all the time, to the next day when you're not in the game at all. Nobody's calling."

Corcoran worked 22 different jobs before landing a secretarial position at the Giffuni Brothers' real estate company in her early 20s. While working for the Giffunis, Corcoran's boyfriend at the time fronted her $1,000 to start her own real estate firm in Manhattan. She started selling apartments on the Upper East Side in 1973 with seven agents.

Now 68, she has successfully pivoted from real estate to the TV business. She's been a contributor for ABC's "Good Morning America" and NBC's "The TODAY Show," landed a spot on ABC's "Shark Tank" in 2008 and was even tapped for ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" in 2017.

But she'll never forget her first massive success with The Corcoran Group. In fact, she still has the Citibank receipt that reads $44 million. "I have it framed. I have it matted," she tells Torabi. "I splurged on this thing."

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Video by Beatriz Bajuelos Castillo