POMPANO BEACH, FL-Commercial real estate services firms continue to jockey for position in South Florida’s super-charged competitive climate. The most recent example is locally-based Brenner Real Estate Group versus Coldwell Banker Commercial of Parsippany, NJ.
Scott Brenner, whose firm operates throughout the tri-county, was battling to retain the exclusive Coldwell Banker Commercial franchise for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.
Now he has dropped the Coldwell Banker Commercial identity from his corporate name and calls his business Brenner Real Estate Group.
But the lawsuit he filed in Broward Circuit Court on Jan. 28 of this year hasn’t been dropped. That complaint is only now heating up. Coldwell Banker’s motion to dismiss the suit has been denied. The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.
The complaint alleges Coldwell Banker’s parent, Cendant Co., fraudulently induced Brenner to sign a franchise contract in 1998 that would give the broker exclusive rights to major real estate transactions in South Florida. The contract also gave Brenner access to Coldwell Banker’s multimarket referral system.
However, what Brenner didn’t know at the time, the suit alleges, is that Cendant was allowing NRT Inc., also of Parsippany, to field the same turf. Cendant is a principal investor in NRT, according to the suit.
NRT, in turn, bought P.A. Lethbridge & Associates, an established Pompano Beach-based brokerage, and named the firm’s president, Barry Lethbridge, to head NRT’s new commercial division. NRT is a co-defendant.
Brenner’s firm is now down to 10 brokers from the 20 he had when the suit was filed nine months ago. The same day he dropped the Coldwell Banker Commercial name, five of his staff left and went to Fort Lauderdale-based Colliers International where some of them had previously worked under the former Colliers Lehrer flag. Colliers Lehrer, in turn, was sold to the Colliers’ Philadelphia affiliate, Lanard & Axilbund.
The Colliers operation in South Florida is up to 16 brokers, including Ron Schagrin, a former senior vice president at Brenner before returning to Colliers as a senior director. Schagrin explains that without the Coldwell Banker referral system, he couldn’t effectively compete in the marketplace.
While his suit against Coldwell Banker and NRT grinds through the discovery stage, Brenner, meanwhile, is refocusing his firm as a local, full-service operation. Brenner also heads Zenith Realty Investments.