The incident happened Wednesday evening and reportedly involved two cars. It comes as CoStar faces criticism from ex-employees and as the company pushes further into the residential sector.
Police in Richmond, Virginia, are investigating a case of suspected arson that left two cars torched at the offices of real estate data firm and Zillow rival CoStar, just days after reports surfaced of unrest among the company’s employees.
The incident happened Wednesday evening, according to a statement Richmond police provided to Inman. The statement notes that officers were called to look into a potential act of arson and ultimately arrested a man about two blocks from CoStar’s office tower on the banks of the James River. The police statement adds that “the suspected arson involved two vehicles parked in a parking deck in the 500 block of South 5th Street,” which is the location of CoStar’s building.
Police are still investigating the incident and didn’t provide information about the extent of the damage to the cars or what charges might await the man who was arrested.
However, Insider (formerly Business Insider) first reported news of the suspected arson and cited an unnamed source who claimed a fire had been set under a Tesla Model S belonging to a CoStar executive.
In a statement provided to Inman, a CoStar spokesperson said that the “safety of our employees is our number one priority, so we are relieved that no one was injured in Wednesday’s fire.”
“We are grateful for the first responders and security team who ensured the fire was contained and apprehended a suspect,” the statement added. “CoStar Group is cooperating fully in law enforcement’s investigation.”
The fire came just a day after Insider published a report alleging the company has faced high employee turnover and discontent among some staffers. Complaints stemmed from CoStar’s corporate culture and the push to return to in-person work. The report also mentioned an Instagram account that a former employee started, and which is dedicated to mocking the company.
During an earnings call this week, CoStar CEO Andy Florance described the company’s critics as “a tiny, vocal minority of disgruntled employees.”
CoStar provided Inman with a memo that Florance distributed to company employees that describes CoStar’s work as having high standards. It goes on to mention one “former employee who was fired for cause” and who “has developed an unhealthy obsession with CoStar Group.” The memo describes the employee as “neither credible nor informed,” adding that “some have expressed concerns that this person may pose a security risk.”
“As a result, we have increased our security at the Richmond facility,” the memo adds.
It remains unclear at this point if there is any connection between the suspected arson incident and the recent reports about CoStar’s work culture.
On Thursday, the Instagram account of the former employee posted a note in response to the fires stating that “I do not advocate violence against CoStar or any CoStar personnel. I do not know who did it but apparently the suspect has been apprehended.”
All of this news comes as CoStar increasingly pushes into the residential real estate sector. Long known for its commercial real estate database, CoStar is currently preparing to launch a residential portal in New York City that will put the company in direct competition with Zillow. Florance has also repeatedly been critical of Zillow over the last year, effectively setting up a heated rivalry between the two companies.
How that rivalry plays out remains to be seen, but during this week’s earnings call Florance indicated he ultimately sees CoStar’s residential business outpacing its commercial endeavors.
“With an addressable market almost three times the size of our existing business,” Florance said, “we believe that the residential property opportunity has the potential to add billions in revenue to CoStar Group over the medium to long term.”