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Harlem Broker Sues Marcus Samuelsson Over Commission on Sale of $2.9M Home

By Jeff Mays | October 23, 2013 12:09pm
 A Harlem real estate broker has filed a lawsuit against celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson and Halstead Realty, charging that they secretly conspired to deprive him of half the 6 percent commission for the $2.895 million brownstone recently purchased by Samuelsson and his wife.
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HARLEM — A Harlem real estate broker has filed a lawsuit against celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson and Halstead Realty — charging that they shut him out of his commission for the $2.895 million brownstone that he helped the culinary star and his wife buy in January.

Laurent Delly, of Delly Group LLC, says he arranged last October to show Samuelsson, who owns Red Rooster Harlem, the property on tony Mount Morris Park West that was once owned by basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after a mutual friend referred the chef to Delly.

After the 4,650-square-foot, five-bedroom, four-bath brownstone with a zen garden sold in January, Delly said Halstead broker Kim McKeller and Samuelsson ignored his request to receive half of the 6-percent commission on the sale, which amounts to approximately $86,850. He said they instead offered him $13,000 to settle the case.

"Maybe the celebrity has gone to his head and he forgot the little guy," Delly said of Samuelsson in an interview.

Reached by phone, Samuelsson, a four-time James Beard Award winner who prepared President Barack Obama's first state dinner, denied any knowledge of the lawsuit and declined to answer questions about the purchase of his home.

"I have really no idea what you are talking about," Samuelsson said.

"I just love living in Harlem and I contribute to the community. I love living in the community," Samuelsson said before hanging up the phone.

McKeller did not respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for McKeller, Babette Krolik, did not respond to requests for comment.

Robyn Kammerer, executive director of communications for Halstead Property, declined to comment on the case because she said her agency has yet to view the filings.

But in a Sept. 4 letter to Delly's former attorney, Krolik denied the allegations.

"As you know from our discussion, Halstead and Ms. McKeller categorically dispute the contentions in your complaint but have nevertheless attempted to acknowledge Mr. Delly's long-standing activity in the local real estate community," she wrote. "We are disappointed by your response and preference for wasteful and unproductive litigation."

According to Delly and the lawsuit, the situation began in October 2012 when a mutual friend told Delly that Samuelsson was looking to buy a brownstone in Harlem, where he has lived for the last nine years.

Delly says he heard about the property at 30 West 120th St. and arranged a viewing with McKeller, who was the listing agent.

In a series of emails with McKeller in October 2012, Delly arranged a time for Samuelsson to see the property.

"Kim, I have spoken to my client. Please let me know if any other day is available. His name is Marcus (Samuelsson)," Delly wrote.

"Is Samuelsson serious," McKeller responded.

Delly said Samuelsson showed up for an Oct. 23 viewing and loved the property, but not the flow of the layout and said he would have to spend at least $100,000 making changes.

Delly claimed Samuelsson had a trip planned, so he directed Delly to work directly with Andrew Chapman, the chief executive officer of the Marcus Samuelsson Group.

Delly arranged another viewing of the property for Chapman, but said while Chapman acknowledged his role in finding the property, he asked Delly to "stay away" from the deal to prevent confusion as it moved forward.

"We don't want too many people in the deal," Delly claims Chapman told him. "We'll take care of you. Don't worry. You'll get your commission."

The Marcus Samuelsson Group did not return calls for comment.

Delly said those involved didn't keep their end of the bargain, shooting him down when he demanded his part of the commission.

"Please note the following reasons as to why you are not entitled to a co-broke on the sale of 30 West 120th Street," McKeller wrote in an email to Delly in January, following a series of emails from Delly on the status of his commission.

McKeller went on to say that Delly "never showed the property to the buyer named on the contract" and that he was "not present for any of the inspections or walk throughs."

Delly says he registered Samuelsson as a client and was the first to introduce him to the property. He also conveyed Samuelsson's desire to purchase the property for the full asking price.

"It's greed and fraud," said Delly. "This is not just about money, it's about Marcus Samuelsson having a lack of empathy."