The Real Deal New York

Mamma Mia! Elliman sues Paolo Zampolli for unpaid commissions

High-profile broker held a dual license between Elliman and his own firm
By Claire Moses | April 01, 2015 03:28PM

Douglas Elliman is suing Paolo Zampolli, a former broker at the firm, for allegedly hiding roughly $4 million in commission from the brokerage, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Zampolli — who also served as the co-chair of his own company, Paramount Realty Group of America Corporation — and Elliman agreed in 2011 that the broker would hold a dual license. Elliman further expected that Zampolli would continue to bring it business, while also doing deals for his own firm.

Under the dual license arrangement, Zampolli would hand over a 30 percent cut of his commissions to Elliman for those deals he did under their name. But just three years later, Elliman terminated Zampolli, according to court documents.

“Zampolli accounted for no real estate brokerage commissions whatsoever,” the suit filed in New York Supreme Court states, “this notwithstanding that during this period defendant Zampolli was known as one of the more successful high-end real estate agents in the Manhattan residential market.”

Zampolli, who in 2011 was named ambassador to the Permanent Mission of the Commonwealth of Dominica To the United Nations and is also the founder of ID Models Management, told The Real Deal on Wednesday afternoon that he considered the lawsuit to be “frivolous,” adding that it felt like “an April fool’s joke.”

“Any deal that I did, everything has been public,” he said. “This is just a ridiculous joke. I guess those guys are getting too old.”

Douglas Elliman, as well as its lawyer, declined to comment on this article.

Zampolli, who helped broker the Qatari prime minister’s purchase of a $35 million townhouse at Beekman Place, added that the brokerage benefited from his visibility and reputation as a high flier.

“They’re milking my connections and my name,” he said.

Elliman’s suit begs to differ, claiming that Zampolli directed the brokerage’s customers and prospects to communicate with him through his personal email address.

Zampolli, in turn, said that that he isn’t really a listing broker, but that people contact him directly through word of mouth. When contacted directly by a potential client, he said, he’d work with them under the Paramount moniker.

“That’s why it’s called a dual license,” he said.

Elliman is demanding that Zampolli hand over $1.2 million, roughly 30 percent of the $4 million in commissions he made during his stint at the firm.

This isn’t Zampolli’s first brush with the courts. In March 2010, he sued Massey Knakal Realty Services (now part of Cushman & Wakefield), claiming he was cheated out of $200,000 in commissions after introducing a buyer to 31 Bond Street in Noho but not being listed as the unit’s broker. The claims were dismissed in September of the same year.