Ex-Hamptons agent sues Bespoke, alleges unpaid commissions
Jarret Willis says brokerage owes him $545,000
UPDATED, May 19, 3:45 p.m.: A former Bespoke agent is suing the New York-based luxury brokerage over what he claims is hundreds of thousands in unpaid commissions.
Jarret Willis, who worked as a broker in the Hamptons, filed a lawsuit against three Bespoke entities in New York County Supreme Court this week. Willis claims the brokerage failed to pay him at least $545,000 in commission from three properties on Long Island’s East End.
The suit follows similar allegations from Harlan Goldberg, Willis’ former colleague and ex-president of Bespoke Florida who sued the brokerage in March for withholding over $1 million in commission from sales in Miami and Parkland.
Goldberg and Willis also claim the brokerage’s co-founders, Cody and Zachary Vichinsky, and other Bespoke employees made overtly racist comments to Willis, who is Black, The Real Deal previously reported. Goldberg alleges he was wrongfully terminated from his management position in September due, in part, to confronting the Vichinskys about their conduct.
Goldberg and Willis filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging Willis was discriminated against because he is Black and that Goldberg experienced a hostile work environment because he is Jewish.
Adam Leitman Bailey, Goldberg and Willis’ attorney, said both the EEOC and the New York Division of Human Rights are actively investigating the discrimination allegations, which are not mentioned in Willis’ commission complaint.
Goldberg and Willis received a letter from Bespoke with some of the outstanding commission payments after Goldberg filed his lawsuit, according to Bailey. The attorney said the amount paid to Goldberg was significantly less than what he alleges he’s owed, while the amount paid to Willis was substantial but incomplete.
The brokerage brushed off the filing in a statement to The Real Deal, calling Willis “a disgruntled former employee attempting to enrich himself by laying claim to commissions he was not entitled to.”
“The claims he makes in this frivolous lawsuit are without merit and we look forward to vigorously defending ourselves in court,” a spokesperson for Bespoke said.
Willis’ lawsuit against Bespoke, which operates in Florida and New York, is centered on outstanding commission from three deals in the Hamptons: 236 Quimby Lane in Bridgehampton, 115 Beach Lane in Wainscott and 140 Hayground Cove Road in Water Mill.
Willis claims he brought the buyer for 236 Quimby Lane, which closed for $26 million in 2019, and that he was only paid $50,000 from what should have been $364,000 in commission from the sale.
The complaint alleges Willis brought the sellers of 115 Beach Lane, aerospace and military weaponry businessman David Susser and his wife, Marla, to Bespoke. The 11,000-square-foot home was featured on an episode of “Succession.”
Willis was not the listing broker for the property, but he claims he was owed commission due to behind-the-scenes work in closing the deal. Willis alleges the sellers wanted to remove Bespoke from the listing, but he persuaded them to stay on with the brokerage. Bespoke found a buyer for the property two weeks later and closed the sale in November 2021 for $43 million.
The lawsuit alleges that Willis, while not the lead negotiator, was routinely included in the process to advise the Vichinskys on whether the Sussers would accept the terms of the deal.
After the sale closed, the Vichinskys claimed the brokerage only received 1 percent of the 2 percent commission owed, reducing the amount of Willis’ cut. The broker alleges the firm did receive the full commission and only paid him $58,000 of what should have been $221,880.00.
Willis alleges he also brought the seller of 140 Hayground to the brokerage, which closed last February for $13 million. He claims he’s owed about $67,000 in commission from the sale of the property.
This article has been updated to include a statement from Bespoke.