Hamptons brokerage Bespoke Real Estate and Bespoke Luxury Marketing are suing Preston Kaye, a 29-year-old Sag Harbor resident who worked for the company for more than three years, for theft of trade secrets and breach of contract.
Kaye and his attorney Erroll Margolin contest Bespoke’s claims and said they plan to sue for owed commissions.
The suit, filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on Jan. 24, 2020, argues Kaye, who worked for the company until last October, took proprietary data, violating his employment agreement and state law.
Kaye and his attorney contest he did anything improper or illegal and said the lawsuit is an effort to intimidate a former employee.
Water Mill-based Bespoke, represented by Garfunkel Wild, argues it is entitled to damages “in an amount to be determined at trial,” estimated to exceed $1,500,000.
“Bespoke does not have any proprietary or confidential information. It is all publicly available knowledge that I created and assembled for the company,” Kaye told The Real Deal in a written statement. “I categorically deny that I took any of this information from the company.”
Bespoke, which specializes in properties valued at more than $10 million, in the suit contends it relies on “highly confidential and proprietary information” related to possible buyers and sellers. The firm did not return a request for comment from The Real Deal.
It alleges Kaye had “access to substantially all of this information” due to his position at the company, which Bespoke said “was primarily a business development role.”
Margolin said the company’s “allegations are false and easily disprovable” and that the “lawsuit is an attempt to intimidate and silence Mr. Kaye.”
“Bespoke failed to pay Mr. Kaye earned commissions and broke its promises to my client,” Margolin said. “Mr. Kaye will seek to recover these commissions by way of a counterclaim.”
Kaye was fired on October 25, 2019, according to the suit, which cites a dispute after which he allegedly threatened to take information. Bespoke in the suit said Kaye routinely forwarded documents to his personal email and iCloud accounts, giving him continued access to information.
“Recently, Kaye began working for a real estate broker who is an active and aggressive competitor of Bespoke,” according to the suit.
The suit also charges Kaye destroyed “documents that he created for or on behalf of Bespoke.”
The company argues under the Defend Trade Secrets Act it has the right to seize “any of Kaye’s devices or accounts that contain Bespoke’s confidential information and trade secrets.”
Tangling with Bespoke’s ambitions?
Brothers Zachary and Cody Vichinsky started Bespoke Real Estate in 2014 after working for the Corcoran Group in the Hamptons. They went into business on their own, focusing on properties priced at a minimum of $10 million.
Bespoke in the lawsuit indicates it manages a listing portfolio valued at $1.6 billion and is opening a New York City office.
The company said it plans to open offices in luxury markets, such as Miami and Palm Beach, Florida, “to serve an existing and future client base.”
Bespoke in the documents adds that it invested at least $1 million in “developing its confidential data and proprietary methodology.”
The company said it “is in active negotiations with several large brokerage firms
to provide proprietary marketing and management services.”
It argues if these firms could obtain Bespoke’s “confidential data and proprietary business methodology, then these services would effectively become worthless.”
Kaye, a 6 foot, 3-inch business major, played hockey at and graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in business, management, marketing and related support services from SUNY Plattsburgh, according to his LinkedIn profile. The profile lists a brief stint at a Vermont real estate firm. He began working at Bespoke in March 2016 as an independent contractor.
“At the time that Kaye joined Bespoke, he had no experience in the real estate market,” according to Bespoke. “He gained all of his knowledge, experience, and contacts within the field purely as a result of his work with Bespoke.”
Kaye during about three and a half years as part of Bespoke’s team rose to the position of Listing Procurement Manager.
On Oct. 25, 2019, according to the suit, Kaye got into a dispute with a worker and was fired, stating he would take “everything” with him, according to the company.
Bespoke, the suit says, insisted Kaye return to the company with his cell phone and computer, so a vendor could examine whether and what data had been taken.
On Nov. 8, 2019, according to the suit, Kaye returned to Bespoke’s offices with his desktop computer and provided the company with the password for a laptop at Bespoke’s offices for a forensic analysis.
Kaye, however, would not give Bespoke his cell phone or password for his iCloud account “for independent forensic analysis,” according to Bespoke.
Instead, Kaye said he would enter the password on his phone and allow Bespoke to view its contents while he was at Bespoke’s offices.
Bespoke insisted it wanted to conduct a third-party forensic analysis of “all of his devices and his iCloud account” to determine what he had access to and what had been transferred to his iCloud account.
Bespoke in its suit says analysis determined Kaye’s desktop computer had been “wiped of any data and reset to its factory settings on November 8, 2019,” the day it was brought to Bespoke’s offices for forensic analysis.
Bespoke said after examining its computers, it found Kaye had deleted documents he created for the company.
In December 2019, the suit indicates, Kaye began working with a real estate broker who is a competitor of Bespoke in the Hamptons.
After he was let go, according to Bespoke, Kaye contacted the company’s existing and
prospective clients, “including a potential buyer for a major Hamptons listing.” Bespoke argues Kaye has “attempted to steer those clients away from Bespoke” and to another broker.
Kaye contests the allegations and said he plans to file a lawsuit to obtain commissions he says he is owed.
“The claims lack merit and I intend to vigorously defend myself in court,” Kaye said, “and file a counterclaim for the commissions that they failed to pay me, in accordance with the New York labor laws.”