Forty years after starting her real estate career, Robin Peterson is retiring as president of Coldwell Banker Burnet (CBB), the second largest real estate brokerage in the Twin Cities area and one of the 20 largest in the country.

She will be succeeded on May 1 by Matt Baker, a CBB senior vice president who joined the firm 34 years ago.

"Throughout the next six weeks, we will work closely together on a smooth transition," Peterson wrote in a note to employees Thursday. "I have many people to thank for what has been the most amazing career filled with incredible friendships and outstanding memories."

In 1998, New Jersey-based NRT bought Burnet Realty and tacked on the Coldwell Banker name. In early 2000, as part of a corporate reshuffle, Peterson become president of Coldwell Banker Burnet Home Services.

Former President Joe Reis was promoted to senior vice president for NRT and CEO of Coldwell Banker Burnet. Ralph Burnet, who founded Burnet Realty in 1973, remained chairman.

Steve Murray, president of Real Trends, a Denver-based real estate consulting firm, said that when Peterson took the helm she was one of only a handful of women to lead a major brokerage.

And she's excelled, he said, in what is one of the most competitive markets in the country, which is dominated by several fierce rivals, including Edina Realty, ReMax Results and several high-performing Keller Williams offices.

"She was a superb leader," Murray said. "She's smart, but what made her stand out from all the people I've known is that she was pleasant, gracious and always willing to help. I never saw her get short or impatient with people and she minded her business really well. She always gave it her best."

New data from RealTrends show that NRT, the nation's largest residential real estate company, had more than $166 billion in sales in 2016 compared with $86 billion for Minneapolis-based HomeServices of America, which owns Edina Realty.

NRT is a subsidiary of Realogy, which operates several real estate brands, including Sotheby's International Realty, the Corcoran Group and a handful of technology-based brokerages, including ZipRealty and Climb Real Estate.

In 2016, Coldwell Banker Burnet had $5.95 billion in total sales volume compared with Edina Realty's $8.24 billion in sales, according to Real Trends.

Peterson grew up on the East Coast, studied history at the University of Vermont and taught in Vermont and New York for four years before coming to Minnesota in 1976. She started at Burnet in 1977.

Baker started his real estate career in the firm's Minneapolis Lakes office in 1983, joined the management team in 1986 and became branch vice president in 1990.

Baker is credited with making the Minneapolis Lakes office the top-selling NRT branch in the country based on the number of homes sold. In 2012, he became senior vice president with oversight for the Minneapolis and St. Paul offices.

Baker said the company expects to name his successor soon.

"Robin has done an exceptional job as a leader," he said. "As an industry we've been through some good times and some challenging times, and she's entrusting the company to me at a time of positive growth."

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376