Taylor Swift's team claims Douglas Elliman never 'earned' commission

Motion to dismiss requests suit demanding $1.1 million be thrown out on grounds of brokerage's 'little to no involvement' in the deal

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It’s nothing but bad blood now between Taylor Swift and New York big player brokerage Douglas Elliman.

Three companies owned by the mega popstar — Firefly Entertainment Inc, 13 Management LLC and Euro Tribeca LLC — are attempting to quash a Jan. 25 lawsuit filed by the brokerage over a $1.1 million commission Swift allegedly owed to one of Douglas Elliman’s Manhattan-based agents, Andrew Azoulay of The Azoulay Miles Team, for Swift’s purchase of an $18 million townhome in New York City last year.

On March 6, according to court documents and as first reported by The Blast, Swift’s companies filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that Douglas Elliman played “no material role” in the real estate transaction in question, regardless of an email agreement that Douglas Elliman claims was the basis of a contract.

Screen shot of the motion to dismiss, page 1 of 17

Douglas Elliman claims Swift’s management gave Azoulay a “written exclusive promise” to represent Swift in the purchase of a property, but in the end, another broker was used to close the deal in October. The agent is asking $1,080,000 (the 6 percent commission he would have received from the sale) for breach of contract and what he calls “tortuous interference with contract damages.”

The motion to dismiss calls the brokerage’s complaint “the latest in a long line of lawsuits brought by plaintiff Douglas Elliman seeking commissions for real estate transactions in which it had little or no involvement,” and states that the extent of Azoulay’s work entailed a single showing and providing “basic information” about the property, after which Swift’s companies never had any contact with the agent again.

In court documents, Azoulay said in February last year he started working with Swift’s management team during which time he showed them the home with the possibility of an off-market deal.

Screen shot of the motion to dismiss, page 8 of 17

Later that month, the agent received an email from Swift’s Firefly Entertainment/13 Management team saying they would “solely” work with him for the purchase of the 5,148 square-foot townhouse. On the basis of this email, he got a blueprint of the Franklin Street home, introducing Swift’s management team to the then owner.

Azoulay said he heard nothing from Swift’s team since March 2017, and he assumed they had found another property. But in October, he discovered Swift’s company had purchased the home for $18 million using another broker. It was next to a home she already owned, according to press reports.

Swift’s companies acknowledge receiving the email but argue that “it is a longstanding and well-established rule in New York that a broker is not entitled to a commission on a real estate sale unless he or she is the ‘procuring cause’ of the transaction,” which it claims is not the case given Douglas Elliman’s “minimal efforts” in the deal. As such, the motion argues, Douglas Elliman would have needed a “special contract” outlining all the terms of the arrangement — rather than the email alone — in order to allege breach of contract.

“There are no allegations the parties ever reached a meeting of the minds regarding the amount of compensation to be paid, when or how that compensation would be earned, or the duration of the exclusivity period,” the motion reads. “…[Douglas Elliman] makes no pretense that Azoulay actually earned that tremendous commission; instead, Elliman argues that Azoulay was ‘wrongfully prevented from earning the real estate brokerage commission.”

Screen shot of written promise emailed to agent. Courtesy of New York County Clerk’s office.

The judge has yet to rule on the case, which is ongoing. Douglas Elliman told Inman it would not be commenting on any litigation.

Email Gill South