Charlie Oppler, CEO and managing partner of the residential real estate brokerage Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty (PPSIR), currently holds the role of first vice president of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). But he has lately become embroiled in multiple lawsuits over an acquisition and an acquisition attempt made by his company.
PPSIR, located in northern and central New Jersey, is the 116th biggest real estate brokerage in the United States in sales volume, according to the Real Trends 500, having closed more than $2 billion in sales in 2018. According to the rival ranking the Swanepoel Mega 1000, the brokerage ranked 126th in the country in sales volume and has 626 agents.
It’s also the 11th biggest Sotheby’s affiliated franchise, with 13 offices and 2,678 closed transaction sides in 2018, according to Real Trends.
Oppler has served on NAR’s board of directors numerous times, beginning in 2003, according to NAR. He’s served on four NAR Presidential Advisory Groups and has chaired the Realtor Party Coordinating Committee and RPAC Trustee Committee.
NAR declined to comment for this story and did not answer Inman’s question regarding whether the association was aware of the pending litigation at the time Oppler was elected.
Oppler also declined to comment for the story, citing pending litigation. Here’s a review of the two lawsuits:
The failed acquisition of Towne Realty Group
Mark Bigos, a minority partner in Towne Realty Group (TRG, a brokerage that is majority-owned by Bigos’ wife Karen and another business partner Daniel Cannizzo) filed a complaint against Oppler on August 2, 2016 in New Jersey Superior Court over an acquisition deal that went south, which Bigos alleges occurred after Oppler violated many terms of their agreement. Bigos also alleges Oppler conspired with his brokerage to eliminate TRG as a competitor.
Now the case is finally headed to trial on May 21, 2019.
On July 8, 2016, PPSIR and Towne Realty Group (TRG) in Short Hills, New Jersey, entered into an agreement under which PPSIR would purchase TRG’s contracts, including for the sale of real estate; real estate listing agreements, customer lists, sales records, and customer files; social media sites; domain names; goodwill; equipment and office supplies, for $1.7 million.
An announcement was made in a local newspaper. A banner welcoming PPSIR hung at the office of TRG. But the deal never closed.
Oppler’s behavior after the transaction was announced and before it officially closed is at the center of Bigos’s complaint: Oppler is accused of being dismissive and demeaning to incoming TRG agents.
“Oppler behaved arrogantly and unprofessionally toward the TRG agents, further alienating them,” the complaint reads.
As this was happening, rival brokers began to poach away top talent from TRG. Agents had expected to hear from Oppler about offers, splits and other incentives. Instead, they received vague introductions all while getting lucrative offers from competitors, the complaint says.
In the nearly three years since that failed acquisition, TRG’s agent count has dropped from nearly 30 agents to five.
“Taken together, defendants alienated TRG’s agents through a systematic pattern of insults, arrogance and indifference, disorganization, poor communication, lack of availability and inability to name a manager, all of which frustrated the transaction,” the complaint reads.
Oppler declined to comment on the charges, citing pending litigation.
The termination of Dan Voehringer
In a separate case, Oppler is on the offensive, suing Dan Voehringer, former owner of a Hoboken, New Jersey-based RE/MAX franchise, for allegedly improperly misdirecting commission money owed to the brokerage. Voehringer is countersuing over money Oppler owes him and improper termination, according to publicly-filed complaints. (Voehringer’s latest complaint was filed in February. There has been no date set yet for a trial.)
PPSIR allegedly agreed to purchase Voehringer’s brokerage RE/MAX Gold Coast Realty for $1 million, plus additional considerations, including payments on pending contracts in a certain time period.
The countersuit asserts some of those payments — including money for closed deals — were not paid on time. The complaint alleges that Voehringer notified Oppler of the violation, to which Oppler handed him a termination notice, despite an agreement that PPSIR could not terminate Voehringer until five years after the deal closed, and needed to have cause for termination and provide written notice of that cause.
PPSIR allegedly tried to fire Voehringer twice, the complaint says. He was first served a termination notice on December 12, 2016 which PPSIR allegedly admitted was improper, then served a termination notice again on May 2, 2017.
Nonetheless, Voehringer remains employed at PPSIR to this day as a manager, despite receiving no compensation, according to the complaint.
Oppler’s lawsuit contests that, under the employment agreement, with cause, Voehringer can be terminated at any time and need not be notified. The lawsuit further contests that Voehringer improperly misdirected commission monies owed to PPSIR, which was the cause for termination.
Voehringer declined to comment for the story.