Fittingly, an open house is what ultimately brought Ann Ciardullo and Keith Green together.
When Green received an email with the subject line, “Got plans this weekend?,” his heart must have skipped a beat and he quickly wrote a response to the woman he had been admiring from afar for three years: “Good for you, one of us had to make the first move.”
If he had stopped to read the body of the email, he would have realized she was inviting him and about 7,000 others to an open house for one of her listings. Nonetheless, he seized the opportunity and it would prove to be a life-changing move.
They’ve been a couple ever since that weekend eight years ago, and seven years ago they decided to partner on real estate at Sotheby’s International Realty.
Ciardullo has been a top-producing agent there for many years, earning a place among National Realty Trust’s top 1% of 59,000 agents and achieving the title of global real estate advisor. Green, who had a successful 20-year career in advertising, running the prestigious firm Scali, McCabe, Sloves in the 1980s, had been working for a smaller firm in East Hampton.
He left the advertising business to pursue other passions as an entrepreneur, becoming somewhat of a serial inventor, going into joint ventures with major companies.Then his daughter, Rory Tahari, and her then-husband the designer Elie Tahari, asked him to help build his eponymous stores around the world, drawing on knowledge of architecture, design and construction. After spending a year building the East Hampton Village store, he decided, “this would be a pretty terrific place to make a home, so I stayed,” and ended up joining a former colleague in real estate.
Three years later, he met Ciardullo.
Their life as a couple has been about melding homes and combining families. They talk proudly of their seven grandchildren, who refer to each other as cousins.
“You know the expression, the ties that bind?” Green says. “After Ann and I became a couple, — one, two, three, four, five — our children had five grandchildren. We have five that are six and under. Those five have never known anything other than Grandma and Grandpa. Who would have ever thought that grandchildren become the ties that bind.”
They made a conscious decision “to make one life,” they say. About a year into their relationship, Green says, “Ann made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
“Over dinner one night we literally had one of those discussions that changes your world,” he says. “We really can’t come home every night and talk about real estate and not be on the same team so to speak. Ann had a very, very resolute proposition which was at the heart of the decision,” he says: to join her “at the world-class Sotheby’s.”
Ciardullo has been in real estate since 1979 in the northern Westchester areas of Armonk, Bedford and Chappaqua. When she first married and had children, she said she quickly realized, “I didn’t want to be that woman who stayed home, played tennis and had lunch.”
After her divorce, she decided to move and after one visit to the Hamptons, she bought a house in Westhampton Beach in 1994. She eventually moved further east, first to Bridgehampton, then to East Hampton’s Northwest Woods, where she and Green live today.
“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years,” she says of being a realtor. “It’s much nicer working with a partner because it does make certain situations easier. When you’re having difficulty with a conversation, you can always look to the other and say what do you think? That really makes a huge difference. Then, of course, I’m just a real estate broker. I know a lot about houses, but Keith knows more about construction and details and aesthetics.”
“Ann and I complement each other,” Green says, calling her the consummate real estate professional. “She works with clients so seamlessly. It is as though it’s in her genes. I come at it totally differently; I’ve got a background in architecture, design, in marketing, in commercial real estate, and to me, it’s structural, it’s business.”
He says clients can feel it: “They know when to lean into Ann and ask her questions. And they know when to turn to me for my contribution. It’s not like we have to announce it to them, they feel it.”
The pair does not limit their work to the East End. They are involved in a $15 million apartment sale in Manhattan, recently sold a house in San Francisco and were just referred two clients from Chicago.
Green says he and Ciardullo never stop working for their clients even after the deal is done. “I learned in the advertising business that just because you get an account doesn’t mean you have an account. You never stop working for your clients,” Green says. “Ann and I make a living not by selling houses. We make a living by helping people find their way in the Hamptons. Our clients will tell you the real estate closing was the beginning of their relationship with us, not the end.”
Working day in and day out with someone you also share a life with cannot always be easy, right?
“I think we manage well,” Ciardullo says. “I enjoy Keith’s company. We’re able to separate work. So work is work. When we’re home, we cook dinner together. We entertain together. We entertain a lot. There are so many different parts to our relationship that it doesn’t get tiring.”
However, she admits, “I was concerned during COVID,” since they were hunkered down together. “Fortunately, Keith went down to his shop to work. . .”
“You caught that, right?,” Green jumps in. “She said, ‘Fortunately, he got out of my hair and left me alone!’”
In all seriousness, Green pinpoints a reason their partnership is so successful. “Even though I’ve been CEO of three companies in my life, I have made a decision to respect the fact that Ann is the senior partner in this relationship. She has more experience. She has a broader knowledge base. She has, in her bones, she knows how to get the job done for clients. I’ve found great joy in understanding the importance of acknowledging that someone has to be the boss and she is.”
Sounds like the key to a successful partnership all around.
This article appeared in the July 2021 issue of Behind The Hedges. Read the digital version here.