The Real Deal New York

Woody Johnson’s ex responds to Corcoran’s unpaid commission suit

June 15, 2015 05:15PM
By Kyna Doles

Carrie Chiang, Nancy Sale Johnson, 817 Fifth Avenue and John Catsimatidis

From left: Carrie Chiang, Nancy Sale Johnson, 817 Fifth Avenue and John Catsimatidis

Nancy Sale Frey Johnson, the ex-wife of New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, is firing back against the Corcoran Group, claiming broker Carrie Chiang never fulfilled her duties as a broker and was clinging to the terms of an expired agreement.

In May, Corcoran sued Johnson for allegedly failing to pay an $810,000 commission over the sale of Johnson’s five-bedroom, five-bath pad at 817 Fifth Avenue, which Gristedes and Red Apple Group mogul John Catsimatidis bought for $18 million. Chiang claims in the suit that Johnson never paid the 4.5 percent commission she was owed on the deal.

In a response to the suit filed May 29, Johnson alleges Chiang didn’t fulfill all her duties as a broker and was holding on to the terms of an expired agreement. Johnson claims she brought in Catsimatidis as a buyer on her own and doesn’t owe Chiang the commission fee.

However, in the suit, Chiang points to a stipulation in the agreement which states she would be entitled to a commission payment if the board of managers at 817 Fifth Avenue purchased the property.

“Corcoran’s motion for summary judgment is based on the listing agreement which provides if the Board exercises its option to purchase, a commission is due. There was a fully executed contract of sale between the seller and a buyer procured by Corcoran.” a spokesperson for Corcoran said in a statement to The Real Deal.  “The condominium Board executed its right of first refusal and Corcoran has earned its commission.”

Johnson enlisted Chiang to market the property in April 2014. A copy of the broker’s agreement shows Johnson initialed her name in five spots, including an area where the document is amended to say the commission is due at closing and another area where the words “or conveyed” is added to the line, “if the property is sold.”

However, Johnson alleges Chiang “unlawfully manipulated and changed the express language of the alleged broker agreement” and therefore “has unclean hands.”

The broker claims that the board of managers sent a notice to Johnson in February stating it would designate Catsimatidis as the buyer through its right of first refusal.

Catsimatidis, who was renting a unit in the same building, allegedly paid a $170,000 fee to the board for consideration.

However, Johnson claims the board “never intended to secure financing for a proposed purchase” of the apartment, and that even if the agreement were valid, a clause in the agreement allowed her to forgo paying a broker’s fee if Catsimatidis or anyone in his family purchased the property.

Johnson also contends that Chiang never presented her with a list of interested buyers prior to the agreement’s expiration.

Chiang and Corcoran are seeking to recover the commission fee plus interest.