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Barbara Corcoran's Sweet Smell of Revenge

The New York City real estate entrepreneur and author explains one of the more unusual motives behind her success.
Barbara Corcoran, New York real-estate entrepreneur, author, and TV personality.

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Barbara Corcoran, New York real-estate entrepreneur, author, and TV personality.

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Margaret Thatcher once said: "gentlemen, there is nothing sweeter than success."

For Barbara Corcoran, the New York real-estate entrepreneur, author, and TV personality, sweet success has always been infused with sharp—but satisfying—tang of revenge.

As Corcoran tells it, her revenge story started back when she was a counter gal waitressing at the Fort Lee Diner, and in strutted a man named Ramon.

"I thought, 'Oh, my god, this is something very, very different,'" Corcoran says, recalling his navy blue aviator shades and starched white collar. "I looked at him and I knew something good was about to happen."

Corcoran became partners in business and in life with Ramon, after he contributed $1,000 to get her small rental company off the ground. Ramon held 51 percent of the partnership; Corcoran ran the business.

Fast forward seven years. Corcoran says: "I was then living with Ray in sin, and taking care of his three young daughters…and I remember the night he walked home and I was dumping the pasta in the kitchen sink…and he said, 'I'm going to marry your secretary, Tina.'"

"I was a viscious, jealous, angry woman at the age of 29," who was running a real-estate office with 14 salespeople, Corcoran says. A two-year period of depression followed.

But Corcoran turned it around. "I finally woke up one morning, and said, I'm ending this business," she says. She marched into the office and told Ramon they were dividing the business. The each picked half of the salespeople, and split the receivables account. He kept the office; she moved to one several floors above in the same building.

"That was the birth of the new company, called The Corcoran Group," Corcoran says.

But as she was leaving the office that day, Ramon called to her. "You know you'll never succeed without me," he said, according to Corcoran.

"And I thought I'd rather die than let him see me not succeed. Thank God he said that. He gave me an insurance policy for success for the rest of my life," Corcoran says.

Corcoran sold that business for $66 million cash.

"And you know what?" she says. "I credit him with half that success. Some people are just motivated by negative insult, and that's right up my alley."

Barbara Corcoran's Sweet Smell of Revenge

The New York City real estate entrepreneur and author explains one of the more unusual motives behind her success.

Last updated: Oct 5, 2011

CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN | Staff Writer | Senior Writer

Christine Lagorio-Chafkin is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is a senior writer at Inc.




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