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Cushman & Wakefield Sues Brokers Who Left For JLL, Alleging Breach Of Contract

Mike McDonald, left, photographed in 2012 when he was at Eastdil Secured, with USAA Real Estate's Bruce Petersen at a Bisnow event.

Cushman & Wakefield is suing two of its former high-profile capital markets brokers for breach of contract after the pair departed for rival JLL.

Mike McDonald and Jonathan Napper joined JLL just weeks after leaving their positions at Cushman & Wakefield, breaking five-year employment contracts signed in October 2018, the brokerage alleged in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Dallas County District Court. The agreement bars the duo from engaging in real estate work in the U.S. before mid-September 2023.

The brokerage was granted a temporary restraining order against its former employees on Wednesday afternoon. It is also seeking monetary relief to the tune of $1M. CoStar first reported the suit.

Cushman & Wakefield claims in the lawsuit that McDonald and Napper took five other brokers and two executives — allegedly “all of Cushman & Wakefield's Dallas-based institutional investment sales brokers” or advisers — to JLL with them, in addition to "confidential business information” and “several clients.”

McDonald and Napper’s contracts reportedly entitled them to multimillion-dollar signing and retention bonuses and come with noncompete clauses. But both brokers allegedly resigned in mid-September and "immediately accepted the same or similar roles" at JLL, C&W claimed.

"Cushman & Wakefield has already suffered significant injuries and continues to suffer harm as a result of the defendants' breaches," the suit reads, alleging that the brokerage had already dealt with canceled transactions stemming from McDonald’s and Napper’s departures.

"I am fully aware of my restrictive covenants with my previous employer, and I have honored those and plan to do so," McDonald told CoStar, while Napper didn't respond to requests for comment.

JLL didn't immediately respond to Bisnow's request for comment, while spokesperson for Cushman & Wakefield declined to comment to Bisnow.

The pair have worked together for eight years, since their time together at Eastdil Secured, according to CoStar. Prior to his move to Cushman & Wakefield, McDonald had already sold more than $5B in real estate while based in Atlanta, Bisnow previously reported.

The suit is another example of tight competition among the most competitive commercial real estate firms, where companies rely on brokers to bring clients and revenues with them when they move firms.

Last year, Newmark sued three former apartment sales brokers who defected to CBRE, CoStar reported. In 2018, CBRE sued two former brokers who moved to rival firm Hughes Marino as well as the firm itself, Bisnow reported at the time. The suit was later settled, with the brokers agreeing to cover CBRE's attorneys' fees.

UPDATE, SEPT. 20, 4:20 P.M. ET: This story is developing and has been updated to include that Dallas County courts granted the temporary restraining order against McDonald and Napper.