Bespoke Florida’s ex-prez seeks $1M-plus in allegedly unpaid commissions for Waldorf Astoria deals
A former executive at a New York-based brokerage is alleging the firm owes him a larger share of commissions on deals in South Florida, including sales totaling $43 million at the high-profile Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Residences.
Harlan Goldberg, a real estate agent who was previously president of Bespoke Florida, sued three Bespoke entities in New York County Supreme Court this week, alleging he is owed more than $1 million for his share of commissions on sales in Miami and Parkland.
Goldberg and his former Bespoke colleague, Jarret Willis, also allege the luxury brokerage’s founders, Cody and Zachary Vichinsky, engaged in overtly racist behavior against Willis, who is Black, The Real Deal previously reported.
Earlier this month, Goldberg filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleges Willis was discriminated against because he is Black. Goldberg, who was fired in September, also alleged that he was subjected to a hostile work environment because he is Jewish, according to the filing uploaded to their attorney’s website. Willis is also allegedly owed his share of the commission on the Waldorf Astoria deals.
New York-based attorney Adam Leitman Bailey said his clients are seeking $15 million in punitive damages. He said that Bespoke “refused” to meet or speak with his clients about the commissions after reaching out several times.
“I do not know why my clients have not been paid their commissions,” he said. “It’s unjust, it’s wrong, and when a person does a really good job and does the job well, and the employer gets paid, then I believe the agent should be paid as well. We shouldn’t have to sue for it either.”
Cody and Zachary Vichinsky did not respond to requests for comment.
The complaint focuses on deals that Goldberg worked on at the as-yet-unbuilt Waldorf Astoria project in Miami. PMG, led by Kevin Maloney, Ryan Shear and Dan Kaplan, and their partners plan the 1,049-foot skyscraper to rise at 300 South Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami. The 100-story building could mark the tallest skyscraper south of Manhattan when it is completed.
According to the lawsuit, two years ago, as president of Bespoke Florida, Goldberg reached out to PMG to obtain listings for units at the Waldorf. When he learned about unlisted penthouses, he began searching for potential buyers and made his way to Steven Vogel, the complaint states. Vogel, who sold a boat manufacturing company to Polaris Industries in 2018 for a reported $805 million, ended up agreeing to buy multiple units at the Waldorf — with Goldberg wining and dining him in the process. At one point, Goldberg flew to Chicago to persuade Vogel to not back out of the contract due to the high price. Goldberg was successful, according to the suit.
Bespoke was set to receive $3.1 million in commissions on the sales at the Waldorf: a $34 million sale of the two penthouses and the $9 million sale of unit 8802. Commissions on new development are typically paid in installments, with the final payments at closing once the project is completed.
The lawsuit alleges that under Goldberg’s agreement with Bespoke, he was entitled to 60 percent of the commissions that Bespoke would receive for the Waldorf deals, or $1.86 million. Instead, Bespoke will only pay $707,650, according to the complaint.
PMG Residential, the company’s in-house brokerage arm, is named in the lawsuit because Goldberg alleges that it is holding the funds. “Our understanding is they are holding the money until the dispute is resolved,” Bailey said.
PMG’s attorney, Scott Buscemi, wrote in a statement to TRD that PMG Residential has paid Bespoke Florida “all commissions owed per their co-broker agreement.”
“At this time, there are no outstanding funds pending from PMG Residential, LLC to Bespoke Florida,” the statement reads.
Goldberg is also seeking his allegedly unpaid commission for his role in the sale of Vogel’s unit at Asia on Brickell Key. Because the listing price was below $10 million — Bespoke’s threshold — Vichinsky took the listing from Goldberg and gave it to another agent to sell through her former brokerage, the complaint alleges. Once the sale closed, that brokerage then allegedly transferred the commission to Bespoke, but Goldberg alleges he never received his cut.
The complaint also refers to a $5,000 to $7,500 commission for a home sale in Parkland, which Goldberg alleges Bespoke kept.
As part of Goldberg’s agreement with Bespoke, he also alleges he never received a 10 percent override on all commissions that Zach Vichinsky promised him for deals brokered through the Miami Beach office. That agreement was to go into effect regardless of Goldberg’s involvement in the deals, the complaint states.