Nfld. & Labrador

Anne Squires told agents merger pending, but no other changes, in email hours before licence suspension

Exit Realty on the Rock owner Anne Squires sent an email to agents suggesting a merger with another franchise was pending, hours before government announced it was pulling the firm's licence.

N.L. government took action against Exit Realty on the Rock on Feb. 4

Franchise owner Anne Squires met with reporters Saturday afternoon, Feb. 6, to assert that Exit Realty on the Rock is not bankrupt, and agents will not lose commissions. (Meghan McCabe/CBC)

Exit Realty on the Rock owner Anne Squires sent an email to her real estate agents suggesting a merger with another franchise was pending, but there were no other significant changes on the horizon, just hours before the provincial government announced it was pulling the licence of Squires's firm.

"As mentioned at our meeting a few weeks ago, we were in the process of doing some changeovers," begins Squires's email, sent 9:28 a.m. on Feb. 4.

CBC News obtained a copy of that email Friday afternoon.

In it, Squires presents what's happening as a merger between Exit Realty on the Rock and Exit Realty Oceans Edge, which is owned by Debbie McGrath.

"We have met on quite a few occasions and we have decided the following which will be effective today," the email notes.

"We will all go back to be one brokerage, naming it Exit Realty Oceans Edge."

Squires writes that McGrath would hold the broker license for the Bay Roberts, C.B.S. and St. John's offices in the newly-merged operation.

She adds: "There will be NO other changes…that I know of at this time."

Squires then provides a series of housekeeping instructions to her agents — about tech support, payroll, and even new business cards and stickers with the new name to be affixed to signs.

Licence suspended later same day

Just over 5-½ hours later, at 3 p.m., the province's superintendent of real estate agents and salespersons issued a press release advising that Exit Realty on the Rock's licence was being suspended as of one minute before midnight.

In that statement, the province said it would not comment further, as the matter remains under investigation.

On Feb. 5, a day after that press release was issued, Exit Realty on the Rock was placed into receivership by the Bank of Montreal.

No knowledge of email's contents

The owner of the separate Exit Realty brokerage referenced in Squires's Feb. 4 message to her agents told CBC News she has no knowledge about the content of that email.

Debbie McGrath of Exit Realty Oceans Edge says she was not copied on it, was not part of drafting it.

And McGrath contradicted some of the claims made in it.

Exit Realty on the Rock had its licence suspended one minute before midnight on Feb. 4. (CBC)

McGrath says this was not a planned merger, the way Squires's email describes it.

In fact, McGrath says she was called the night before the email was sent and asked to come in for a meeting the next day.

She had no idea the license suspension was coming, and no idea Exit Realty on the Rock was headed into receivership.

"I know no more than anybody else knows," McGrath said.

McGrath says she has been "flying by the seat of my pants" helping real estate agents stay afloat and stay in business since the news broke last week.

"I'm just trying to protect myself and my agents," she said.

McGrath added that "we have a lot of damage control to do here," because many assumed Exit Realty on the Rock and Exit Realty Oceans Edge were the same company.

Squires, meanwhile, did not immediately return an emailed message from CBC News Friday afternoon.

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