ISG’s Craig Studnicky and ex-wife embroiled in legal tussle over commissions and damaged reputations
Natalie Brabner sued her ex-husband and ISG two years ago for allegedly unpaid commissions and recently obtained his college transcripts showing he doesn’t have a Virginia Tech degree.
It took Craig Studnicky and his ex-wife Natalie Brabner about nine months to wrap up their divorce proceedings. Yet, two years later, the former couple’s legal drama rages on.
Studnicky, the principal of International Sales Group, one of South Florida’s prominent real estate brokerages, and company affiliate ISG Muse LLC, sued Brabner in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on Aug. 6 for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. The complaint alleges she orchestrated a personal vendetta, engaged in fraudulent acts, secretly spied on her ex-husband while they were married, stole trade secrets and then shared them with a rival brokerage, among other accusations. Studnicky and ISG are also seeking that Brabner repay advances on commissions for condo deals that fell apart.
Meanwhile, Brabner recently won a key ruling in her 2018 civil lawsuit against her ex-husband and ISG, in which she claims she is owed more than $200,000 in commissions and that Studnicky defamed her.
On July 20, Miami-Dade Judge Veronica Diaz denied Studnicky’s request to keep his college transcripts confidential after Brabner succeeded in obtaining the records from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, commonly known as Virginia Tech. According to a July 15 letter from the university, Studnicky never completed his degree. Studnicky’s bio pages on several online real estate broker databases and on RelatedISG International Realty’s website claim he did.
Brabner’s lawyer Michael J. Schlesinger said his client is not surprised by “the desperate attempts” to discredit her. “She has stood up to his and his company’s attacks,” Schlesinger said in an emailed statement. “As a resilient, hardworking, principled, and moral person, [she] understood that in bringing her lawsuit to recover compensation lawfully due her, she would be met with these types of retaliatory claims.”
Robert Stok, the attorney representing Studnicky and ISG Muse, said the lawsuit’s allegations are easily provable and supported by statements Brabner made in depositions in connection with her complaint. “She tried to shake down my client for commissions and attempted to extort him using confidential information she obtained illegally,” Stok said in a phone interview. “The divorce proceedings were finished when his ex-wife started legal proceedings against him and his company. She wanted to continue a vicious campaign of litigation and harassment against her ex-husband.”
Stok said Brabner and Schlesinger sought Studnicky’s Virginia Tech transcripts to embarrass him and damage his credibility. Stok explained that Studnicky had financial issues his last year in college and wasn’t able to complete his last semester. “She knew that was something he was very sensitive about,” Stok said, adding Studnicky has more than enough college credits to obtain his degree, but hasn’t done so.
In 2013, Brabner joined ISG, which counts The Related Group and Property Markets Group among its developer clients, at Studnicky’s behest, according to her complaint. Brabner alleged that she, Studnicky and other ISG officers had a clear understanding that she would never have to pay back her commissions even if her buyers didn’t close on their units or projects were canceled.
In the midst of their divorce, Studnicky allegedly began a campaign to deprive Brabner of her owed and earned commissions, according to her suit. She claims ISG owed her $214,395 in earned commissions for unit sales at Echo Brickell, Echo Aventura, Muse Sunny Isles Beach and W Residences Fort Lauderdale. Brabner also accused Studnicky of making and republishing false and disparaging statements about her to business partners and colleagues, her lawsuit states.
Studnicky, in his lawsuit, accused Brabner of “surreptitiously and illegally” spying on him throughout their marriage, including “maliciously” accessing his computer and iPhone so she could transfer information to herself for her financial gain. Brabner also sought to expose Studnicky’s secrets to his business and social community as a way to damage his personal and professional reputations, along with using it as leverage to extort money out of him and ISG Muse, his complaint alleges.
Following her departure from ISG, she sought employment with rival brokerage One Sotheby’s International Realty, and offered to share confidential trade secret information that she obtained from her ex-husband’s company, Studnicky’s lawsuit alleges. Brabner allegedly had lists of potential buyers and interested parties that included valuable, non-public details about their specific needs and desires. One Sotheby’s President Daniel de la Vega did not respond to a request for comment.
Schlesinger said Studnicky’s lawsuit is without merit. “My client and I are highly confident that when the smoke clears, the truth will be crystal clear,” Schlesinger said in his statement. “Her ex-husband’s latest attacks will be exposed as petty and legally and factually frivolous.”