The Appellate Division, First Department, at 27 Madison Ave. (NYLJ/Rick Kopstein)
A $1.6 million judgment against CNBC talk show host Donny Deutsch has been affirmed by the Appellate Division, First Department.
Sotheby’s International Realty sued Deutsch in 2011 for failing to pay a commission on the $30 million sale of Deutsch’s East Hampton property. A 2014 bench trial before Manhattan Commercial Division Justice Charles Ramos found an unwritten contract existed to pay the commission.
“We find no basis to disturb the trial court’s findings, based largely on credibility determinations, that there was an express agreement or at least an implied agreement to pay plaintiff a commission of 4 percent,” the panel said in a unanimous March 24 decision.
The opinion cited testimony showing a Sotheby’s broker told Deutsch that Howard Marks, founder of the Los Angeles hedge fund Oaktree Capital Management, was interested in buying the property, and that the broker showed it to Marks, Marks’ wife, and their decorator. It also noted communications between the broker, Deutsch and Deutsch’s attorney as the transaction progressed.
Joining in the ruling were Justices Peter Tom, David Friedman, David Saxe and Rosalyn Richter.
Judd Bernstein, of Judd Bernstein, P.C. who represented Deutsch in Sotheby’s International Realty v. Deutsch, 650078/11, said the witness testimony did not support the ruling. “Ramos found testimony credible where witnesses disavowed their affidavits on cross examination,” Bernstein said. He said his client will likely seek leave to appeal.
Kelley Drye & Warren partner Geoffrey Castello and associate Nainesh Ramjee argued for Sotheby’s.
Sotheby’s spokeswoman Kristina Helb said: “We agree to perform services with the expectation that we will be compensated upon completing the job successfully. We are pleased that both the trial court and the appellate court ruled that Mr. Deutsch breached his contract with us and must pay our full commission that was due to us.”