Within two years of becoming a real estate agent, former Miami Heat shooting guard Robert Hite gained national attention for the sale of a Miami penthouse to David and Victoria Beckham.
Hite was approaching real estate the same way he approached basketball—with the drive and initiative to be the best. One of the people who noticed was California broker Rod Watson, a former international basketball player who managed the sports and entertainment division of Keller Williams Beverly Hills.
Watson reached out to Hite. “I wanted to congratulate another Black man on doing big things in the real estate business,” he recalls.
One of Hite’s role models was Tomi Rose, a former professional cheerleader for the NBA. In 2013, Rose had launched the sports and entertainment division at Opulence International Realty in Florida, where she was senior vice president. She went on to head the sports and entertainment operations at the Miami offices of One Sotheby’s Realty and Douglas Elliman Realty in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
So not long after Watson reached out, Hite had a brainstorm: He brought Rose and Watson together to discuss forming a brokerage dedicated to the sports and entertainment niche. The trio reached out to four-time Olympic gold medalist and former WNBA center Lisa Leslie, a long-time real estate investor who had been with Keller Williams since 2017.
Thus, the dream team, known as Aston Rose, was born. The brokerage, located in Miami and Los Angeles, closed over $40 million in sales in the first quarter of 2022. It’s on track to close over $100 million by the end of the year. (“Aston” is an Old English reference to “east,” in a nod to the brokerage’s east coast origins, explains Watson. “Rose,” of course, refers to Tomi’s last name but is also the middle name of Hite’s youngest daughter.) represents elegance, class, and luxury,” Watson adds.
Representation and Education
This all-Black, all-pro team knows from experience what’s important when it comes to serving Black and brown athletes and entertainers: representation and education.
“There’s a unique dynamic that we bring to the table as former athletes and success stories in the real estate space,” says Watson, national director for the new company, noting that representation at this level and in this niche is about understanding their clients’ lifestyles.
At the center of Aston Rose’s mission is helping athletes and entertainers, especially Black athletes and entertainers, keep their earnings and build generational wealth. “We have the background and the credentials, as well as a direct intent to educate, inform and empower the modern athlete,” Watson says.
“We’re delivering Black excellence,” says Hite.
It’s not difficult to see why the company’s mission is so compelling. A simple Google search will produce a list of high-profile—disproportionately Black—athletes and entertainers, who enjoyed high-paying careers only to lose everything. Whether their downfall was the result of overspending, bad investments or racist policies and their ripple effect, the common denominator for many of these professionals is that they didn’t grow up with wealth and had little access to advice about how to retain and build on their earnings.
Lisa Leslie, director of private client services for Aston Rose, is an exception and hopes to help bridge the gap so that stories like hers become the norm.
She recalls the day she got her first check as a pro athlete. The star athlete turned actress and sports commentator was raised in Compton by a single mother and says it was more money than she’d ever seen at one time. But unlike many of her Black WNBA counterparts, she had trusted family members who understood the world of investing and financial management. “I was lucky to have uncles who owned an accounting firm,” she says.
“A lot of the people we work with are the first in their families to have this kind of money, and they need someone they can trust to advise them on how to keep it,” she continues. “We can speak to these celebrities and entertainers and athletes first-hand from our own experience, and we can educate them to make sure they have their money when they retire.”
Playing to Each Other’s Strengths
Every good team knows how to maximize the strengths of its players, and the leadership team at Aston Rose is no exception.
Rose and Watson bring the wisdom that comes from experience. As a top producer in real estate, Watson knows the ins and outs of luxury branding and understands the complexities of working with high-profile clients, such as the need professional athletes have to accommodate a quick move to a new location they know little about.
Rose not only has expertise in launching in the sports and entertainment niche but also brings a bonus: cheerleading. She says she’s the biggest fan of her Aston Rose colleagues and constantly reminds them to celebrate the wins while working toward their goals.
Hite might come off as quiet and easygoing at first, but his competitive nature and steadfast dedication to improvement give him “rising star” status in the eyes of his team. Hite is adept at listening carefully to his clients’ needs and takes their need for discretion seriously.
Then there’s Leslie who brings her decades of experience in real estate investing along with a wide-ranging career that combines her 12 years in the WNBA and Olympic triumphs with work as a sports commentator and actress—an unusual blend that gives her insights on her clients’ life in the public eye.
First, privacy is what many Aston Rose clients are looking for—everything from the transaction to the location of the home to their return on investment.
Clients appreciate working with someone who has taken a similar path and understands from a personal perspective, says Leslie. “We operate from a place of integrity. People understand that they are getting the white-glove treatment and education when they come to Aston Rose,” she says. “We want to be of service. This is more than a transaction.”
That service mindset extends to the entirety of the Aston Rose team, which today includes 18 agents. “We want our agents to know that we are here to support them and that no agent is on their own,” Hite says. “They have access to all of us.”
“We lead with an open-door policy,” Rose agrees. “All of us offer access, openness and a willingness to assist our agents and our clients.”
Aston Rose has plans to expand into other major cities where athletes and entertainers live most often. “Our focus is being in destination cities where there are two or more sports franchises,” says Watson, “so we’re looking at Houston, Atlanta, New York, Las Vegas, and the like.”
No matter where they land, representation, wealth equity and education remain their focus.
“We have the blueprint on how to do this,” Rose says. “What we’re doing is building something that’s never been done before, not at this capacity. We’re cheering each other on and we’re bringing best practices and standards of excellence into this space.”