The Real Deal New York

Jilted Nest Seekers broker launches own firm, continues lawsuit

Joseph DeCristofaro was hired at Southampton office, but claims former employer locked him out
By Leigh Kamping-Carder | January 30, 2012 06:00PM

Noted Hamptons agent Joseph DeCristofaro, who abruptly left Nest Seekers International in November and then sued the firm, has launched his own residential brokerage that will focus on rentals and sales in New York and the Hamptons.

Named the Global Group, as reported by the New York Post earlier this month, the firm launched Dec. 21 and will cater to buyers, sellers, tenants and landlords. DeCristofaro also started LeaseHamptons.com, a separate Hamptons rental listings website.

This is the latest venture for DeCristofaro, who joined Nest Seekers as an executive vice president last May to help run the firm’s newly acquired Southampton office. Nest Seekers poached DeCristofaro from the Corcoran Group, where he was named East End rookie of the year in 2007.

The hire was part of Nest Seekers’ broader expansion in the Hamptons, where the firm acquired two local franchises of Engel & Volkers, a German real estate brokerage, in May. The firm appointed Amadeus Ehrhardt, who was heading up Engel & Volkers’ Southampton office, as managing director; installed DeCristofaro as his second-in-command; and named Barbara Feldman, the former manager of Engels & Volker’s Easthampton office, as the head of that branch.

However, it appears that the relationship quickly soured. By mid-November, both DeCristofaro and Feldman had left the firm, and the parting was rumored to be less than amicable.

Shortly after his departure, DeCristofaro sued Nest Seekers in New York State Supreme Court, claiming the firm had breached his employment contract and defamed him in emails to clients and statements to the real estate community.

The jilted broker cited a November item from the real estate blog Curbed that quoted an anonymous source saying he had been stripped of his managerial duties “but refused to accept [it]… and kept telling everyone he was an owner/partner.”

In DeCristofaro’s account, Nest Seekers convinced his clients to drop him and unexpectedly changed the locks on his office, preventing him from collecting his client list, listing agreements, and paperwork on past exclusives and open houses, plus belongings such as personal photographs and a cell phone.

“I entered in to a signed agreement with Nest Seekers and they did not want to honor it, nor pay me for my efforts,” DeCristofaro said in an email to The Real Deal today. “Although I made several attempts to settle, I was forced out and had no other option than to get legal assistance.”

A representative for Edward Burke, a partner with Burke & Sullivan who is representing Nest Seekers, said the law firm could not comment on the litigation due to a confidentiality agreement. A representative from Nest Seekers did not immediately return a request for comment.

The parties signed an agreement Nov. 17 restricting what Nest Seekers could say about DeCristofaro to third parties, according to court documents. A court date does not appear to have been set.

DeCristofaro’s attorney, Jamie Svenson, an associate with Lieb at Law, also declined to speak about the case.

Meanwhile, DeCristofaro is forging ahead with his new business, which he said is handling more than $20 million in listings in the Hamptons and New York, including several development projects. LeaseHamptons currently has more than 2,000 rentals on offer, he said.

Though recruiting efforts are not formally underway, DeCristofaro said the firm has several Hamptons agents among its ranks and will bring on board two New York City agents in the next two weeks. DeCristofaro is aiming to have 50 agents working with him by the end of the year. Agents will make up to 90 percent commissions and will be able to sell in both markets, he said.