Art Bartlett, Founder of Century 21 Real Estate Franchise, Dies at 76

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Art Bartlett, the founder of real estate giant Century 21, died in Coronado, Calif. on Dec. 31. He was 76 years old.

Bartlett changed the competitive landscape of the residential real estate business. His vision helped local residential real estate brokers compete toe-to-toe with major regional and national chains. With this mission, his business thrived.Bartlett opened his first Century 21 office with his business partner, Marshall Fisher, in Santa Ana, Calif. in 1971. In just six years, he and his partner had signed franchise agreements with more than 6,000 brokers. By 1978, Century 21's licensing fees and its share of brokers' commissions brought in $23 million.

By persuading independent real estate brokers to join the Century 21 umbrella and share advertising, training, contracting and selling, he enabled independent agents to compete against major players both nationally and internationally. Without a nationwide organization, local real estate outfits have little chance to compete for corporate listings and other major contracts. Instead they must depend solely on the business they can generate locally. by being featured in Century 21 ads and being part of the company's network, local brokers were able to get national attention.

In 1979, Bartlett sold Century 21 to Trans World Corp. for $89 million. Today, Century 21 is a subsidiary of the Realogy Corp. and has more than 120,000 sales agents in 7,700 franchise offices across the globe, including Britain, Japan and Brazil.

Three years after Bartlett sold Century 21to Trans World, he started a second franchise called Mr. Build International. But the home improvement company never quite got off the ground and closed its doors in 1980. Bartlett also made several real estate investments including a Tustin, Calif. shopping center, but he never got involved in a national company again.

Bartlett was born in Glens Falls, NY, on Nov. 26, 1933. He was one of three children of Raymond and Thelma Williams Bartlett. His father was a truck driver and his mother was a hairdresser. The real estate bug bit Bartlett in 1960 and he became a sales agent for Forest Olson in the San Fernando Valley, which at that time was the largest residential real estate company in the state. He is survived by his second wife Nancy Sanders and daughter, his brother Ray and his sister Millie Schneider, as well as a stepson, granddaughter and three step-grandchildren.

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