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Onetime actor finds starring role in real estate

Nick Segal, the nephew of film and TV star George Segal, tried his hand at acting, but that didn't pan out. He turned to selling homes and now heads a brokerage.

March 01, 2013|By Andrew Khouri, Los Angeles Times
  • Nick Segal didn't go far as an actor, but the time he spent in Hollywood has paid off in his real estate career. “I have a host of entertainment clients. I know the rhythm.”
Nick Segal didn't go far as an actor, but the time he spent in Hollywood… (Kirk McCoy, Los Angeles…)

The gig: Nick Segal is president and a founding partner of real estate brokerage Partners Trust, which specializes in the high-end, luxury markets of the Southland. It's his latest endeavor in a real estate career that has spanned decades and included stints with Sotheby's International Realty and DBL Realtors, which Sotheby's acquired in 2004.

Partners Trust has offices in Santa Monica, Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Pasadena and Rancho Mirage. The firm, with about 100 agents, deals in expensive properties; last year, the average sale price was $1.65 million. The company handled $1.14 billion in deals in 2012, Segal said.

Things are going well. "Some of the Westside is back to 2007 prices and above," he said. "We are ripping the cover off the ball."

A rocky beginning: Things didn't start out so smoothly. Segal and others left Sotheby's and started Partners Trust in 2009 — in the midst of the real estate bust and widespread economic turmoil.

Segal said he had his doubts when his future partners came to him with the idea. "There was a pause," he said. "I said we were crazy."

Other issues also threatened to derail the start-up. Sotheby's sued Segal and others, accusing them of breaching their contracts with the giant brokerage, a case that was ultimately settled. "It was a very trying time," Segal said.

Coming to Los Angeles: Segal grew up in New York and came to L.A. in the 1980s. Like many new arrivals, he came dreaming of Hollywood. He had studied dramatic arts and economics at Vassar College and even had a pedigree — his uncle is film, television and stage actor George Segal, and his father, Fred, was a screenwriter. "I grew up in that world," Nick Segal said.

But he never hit it big as an actor. "I got tired of waiting for the phone to ring," he said.

Segal did commercials and landed small roles in TV shows and movies, including the 1986 horror flick "Chopping Mall"— a "terrible movie," Segal said.

But the years in Hollywood have helped. "I have a host of entertainment clients. I know the rhythm."

A turning point: Segal's parents died when he was young — one of the reasons that he chose, at 14, to attend George School, a Quaker boarding school founded in 1893 in Pennsylvania. His uncle and father both attended.

He recalled the first time he spoke at a Quaker meeting: "I think I spoke about my parents. I think I spoke about how I felt I had a home again — it was very moving for me."

Segal said the school taught him integrity, which he aims to bring to real estate.

Starting on your own: Plan for the worst, Segal advised. "If you are OK with the worst-case scenario, go for it."

Significant others should also be on board. If the budding entrepreneur starts without that backing, a breakup will probably follow, Segal said.

And once you begin, don't give up, he said.

"Have a real clear intention of what it is you are trying to do and stay that course. No matter what comes at you, if you really believe in it, trust your belly. And make sure you have enough money to weather the storm."

A new game: "There [is] a huge emphasis on technology," Segal said. "We spent $500,000 in crafting a whole social media campaign that empowers all of our associates."

Segal also blogs. "There are opportunities through blogging to say: 'This is what I care about as a broker.'"

Segal finds that he gets a much warmer reception from potential clients who have read his writing online.

Outside interests: Segal, whose parents were oil painters, took up painting two years ago. He just completed his eighth painting, of Abraham Lincoln.

"This is just therapeutic to me. I just went out one day and bought the paints ... and I said, 'Let's give this a shot.'"

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