William Raveis must pay Elliman $5M damages in agent-poaching case

Raveis conspired to "decimate" Elliman's office in Armonk, N.Y.: lawsuit
By E.B. Solomont | June 20, 2017 06:50PM

Howard Lorber and Bill Raveis

UPDATED: June 21, 10:52 a.m.: “They’ll eventually be out of Westchester County,” Bill Raveis declared back in 2015, referring to rival firm Douglas Elliman’s move into William Raveis Real Estate’s stronghold.

Not quite two years later, the opposite is turning out to be true.

On Tuesday, a jury upheld Elliman’s claim that Raveis and a former Elliman manager conspired to poach top agents from its office in Armonk, N.Y. The jury awarded Elliman $5 million in damages.

The rival firms have sparred viciously both in New York City and its wealthy suburbs to the north since 2014, when Elliman opened an office in Greenwich, Conn., in the heart of Raveis country.

That year, the suburban powerhouse, which is based in Connecticut, broke into Manhattan with an office headed by Paul Purcell, a former Elliman president, and Kathy Braddock.

The firms’ battle came to a head in mid-2015 when Raveis accused Elliman of blocking all emails that came from the firm — a move Bill Raveis likened to a “baby tantrum.” Elliman, meanwhile, said Raveis was sending mass emails to brokers in New York City in an attempt to lure them away.

Elliman sued Raveis and former manager Lisa Theiss in 2015 for allegedly conspiring to “decimate” its branch by secretly recruiting the firm’s top agents, according to court papers. The suit alleges that Theiss poached 10 agents, including four “top producers,” from her former firm and lured them to Raveis’ newly opened office across the street.

In a statement Tuesday, Elliman Chair Howard Lorber said he was pleased that the jury saw fit to rectify Raveis’ “egregious and outrageous actions.”

In an email, Bill Raveis said he disagreed “with all aspects of the jury’s decision,” and added that his firm would “vigorously be pursuing [an] appeal.”

Both Raveis and Elliman have been going after the Westchester market, which is still dominated by Houlihan Lawrence and Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty. Raveis logged $439 million in Westchester sales in 2016 while Elliman followed with $378 million, according to a recent analysis by The Real Deal.