At least 12 former Bamboo Realty real estate agents in Colorado and Texas have filed a lawsuit against the now-shuttered millennial-focused brokerage, charging that its free-spending owners withheld $140,000 in commissions.
In the Nov. 17 lawsuit in Denver County District Court, agent Andrea Lightfoot of Houston and 11 other former Bamboo associates claim cofounder Sarah Jones and her husband Brian Jones repeatedly failed to pay them on time or, frequently, not at all, according to court papers.
“I considered Sarah Jones one of my closest friends, as well as her husband,” said Lightfoot, who claims Bamboo owes her $22,000 in commissions for work between 2011 and 2015. “I don’t know what happened, but I would never think in a million years she would owe so many people so much money. One guy lost his house — he foreclosed. She caused one guy to get a divorce. She just quit paying us and would make excuses and never came through.”
Lightfoot claimed Jones and her husband were known to take extravagant trips and frequently vacationed in Vail. Her lawyer filed the lawsuit against the couple alongside 11 other agents in Denver and Texas with similar grievances, she said.
“She has a spending problem for sure,” said Lightfoot, who said she last spoke to Jones in January. “She lives in a penthouse in Denver on the river. She drives an Audi 87. Her husband has a jeep. They just got back from Vail. They go on extravagant trips. So it’s hard to see all that knowing that she owes over $140,000 to her former agents. I think that’s cruel.”
An inquiry sent to Sarah Jones at a Bamboo email address on Wednesday did not receive an immediate response, but in an interview with the business-centric news site BusinessDen, her husband acknowledged that agents had not been fully paid and expressed some regret.
“We exhausted all of our business and personal resources to make it work, but in August made the hard decision to close our doors,” Brian Jones told the website. “There are some agents and vendors who have not received their full compensation, and for that we are deeply sorry.”
Launched in 2009 as a rental-only firm in Houston, Bamboo Realty began representing buyers and sellers in 2013, and by 2014 agents at the firm were tallying more than $40 million in sales. With a business model that targeted young millennials on the theory that today’s renters would become tomorrow’s buyer, the brokerage expanded rapidly, opening locations in Dallas, Raleigh and Denver before abruptly shuttering earlier this year due to revenue losses.
“We built a leadership team with some of the most innovative and talented people in real estate,” Jones told Inman earlier this year. “We recently came to the realization we can help way more agents outside of Bamboo than we can by continuing to grow our own company.
“Our decision impacts individual agents and their families, which is really hard,” she added. “No one ever wants to talk about the ugly side of innovation, which is that sometimes you have to make tough decisions that impact people. Sometimes that means starting over.”
Calls to lawyers representing the plaintiffs were not immediately returned.
Email Jotham Sederstrom