Avison Young sues Butters for $840K commission on warehouse sale

Brokerage alleges its agent secured buyer for off-market deal in Plantation

A photo illustration of Butters Group CEO Malcolm Butters (left), Avison Young broker Tom Viscount (right) and the warehouse at 6801 West Sunrise Boulevard (Getty, LoopNet, Butters Group, Avison Young)
A photo illustration of Butters Group CEO Malcolm Butters (left), Avison Young broker Tom Viscount (right) and the warehouse at 6801 West Sunrise Boulevard (Getty, LoopNet, Butters Group, Avison Young)

Avison Young is making a legal preemptive strike to secure a potential $840,000 commission on a pending warehouse deal in Plantation.

Last week in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, Avison Young sued the realty subsidiary of Coconut Creek-based Butters Group, as well as an entity that owns the industrial site at 6801 West Sunrise Boulevard, and David Rabbani, a former client under contract to buy the property. 

Avison Young alleges its broker, Tom Viscount, spearheaded the off-market deal, but that Butters and Rabbani are refusing to honor the broker’s commission agreement. A copy of a proposed purchase offer memo drafted on Avison Young letterhead shows Rabbani offered $28 million. The copy is attached to the lawsuit. 

Eric Isicoff, the lawyer representing Avison Young, declined comment. 

Avison Young’s lawsuit is an “attempt to try to get a commission when none is due,” Butters Group CEO Malcolm Butters said via email. “The allegations are not true and we will respond accordingly,” he said. “[Avison Young] has no commission agreement and was not the procuring [broker].” 

Malcolm Butters declined to comment about the 103,300-square-foot warehouse’s final sale price, and the anticipated closing date “as it’s uncertain at this point.” If the purchase price remains $28 million, the brokers would be entitled to a 6 percent commission of $1.7 million that would be split 50-50, or $840,000 each. 

Butters owns the 5.8-acre property in a joint venture with Arvinder Bajaj, whose manufacturing business, AB Diversified Industries, is headquartered in a neighboring site at 6825 West Sunrise Boulevard, according to published reports. 

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Rabbani, the prospective buyer, retained Avison Young’s Viscount last year to find a new warehouse for his pharmaceutical business, the lawsuit states. In January, Viscount had conversations with Tom Hotz, a broker with Butters, about the Plantation site, Avison Young alleges. 

Hotz informed Viscount that Butters had received interest from other suitors, but that Butters and Bajaj were “not interested in any offers unless they were close to $300 per square foot,” according to the lawsuit. 

Viscount and Hotz also “specifically discussed the real estate commission” from a potential sale to Rabbani. They both agreed Avison Young would prepare and send over an agreement stating the brokerage and Butters would evenly split the 6 percent commission, the lawsuit alleges. 

During the due diligence period, Viscount performed a significant amount of leg work on behalf of Rabbani, the lawsuit states. But in late February, Rabbani texted Viscount to let him know that he had to part ways with Avison Young, the lawsuit states.

A copy of Rabbani’s text message attached to the lawsuit stated: “My friend knows Butters well. He spoke to him and basically said he will have to jack up the sale if a broker is involved and doesn’t want a broker involved.” 

Rabbani’s text also stated: “Out of good faith, I’ll compensate you in this…This is for my bread and butter, and I can’t afford to lose it.”

Viscount responded by emailing Malcolm Butters, Butters broker Hotz and Rabbani to remind them Avison Young was the buyer’s broker that procured the deal. In his email, Viscount also attached a copy of a buyer representation commission agreement, but Malcolm Butters and Rabbani never signed it, the lawsuit states. 

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