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Former Colliers International West Michigan staff who left the firm in January 2021 to form Advantage Commercial Real Estate Services LLC. Former Colliers International West Michigan staff who left the firm in January 2021 to form Advantage Commercial Real Estate Services LLC. COURTESY PHOTO

Colliers, Advantage Commercial Real Estate resolve breach of contract, other claims involving staffers

BY Wednesday, April 20, 2022 11:45am

Former executives at Colliers International’s West Michigan office that left the real estate group in January 2021 to start their own firm breached non-solicitation obligations in the process, according to an arbitration resolution announced this week. 

Advantage Commercial Real Estate Services LLC was started by 10 former Colliers staff: Mark Ansara, Tim Van Noord, David Rapp, Duke Suwyn, Steve Marcusse, Michael Visser, Gary Albrecht, Trent Wieringa and Mike Murray, as well as John Kuiper, who serves as Advantage Commercial Real Estate’s CEO. Most recently, former Colliers Senior Vice President Earl Clements joined Advantage Real Estate as a retail specialist.

Colliers in February 2021 initiated arbitration proceedings against all 10 of its former employees. Claims included breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference, misappropriation of trade secrets and material breaches of contractual terms relating to the taking of confidential information and unlawful solicitation of Colliers professionals. 

Arbitration proceedings concluded that Kuiper, Suwyn and Ansara had each breached non-solicitation obligations to Colliers and awarded Colliers monetary damages as a result. As well, the seven other former Colliers brokers were ordered to destroy a variety of documents copied from Colliers’ files prior to their departure, according to Colliers executives.

“We are pleased that the arbitrator has recognized the breaches of contract and confidentiality violations that occurred and to put this matter behind us,” Managing Director of Colliers West Michigan Jon Potvin said in a statement. “We will now fully focus on growing our business and serving our clients in West Michigan.”

However, the proceedings also found that Colliers had been wrongfully withholding commissions due to Advantage Commercial Real Estate advisers since their departure in early 2021.

“The arbitrator ordered Colliers to pay those commissions to the advisers immediately, with interest, and all future commissions within seven days,” Kuiper told MiBiz in an emailed statement. “To put both rulings in perspective, those funds are dramatically greater than the insignificant damages Colliers was awarded based on the arbitrator’s findings.”

Advantage Commercial Real Estate relocated and expanded its offices in January 2022 to a 7,000-square-foot space on the third floor of the Northpointe Bank building at 3333 Deposit Drive NE in Grand Rapids. The firm plans to hire more people this year to grow its staff to 35 to 40 people, including a property management staff, Kuiper told MiBiz in January. 

“There isn’t anything that is going to negatively impact us from that perspective,” Kuiper said of the firm’s growth plans. 

Rhoades McKee PC in Grand Rapids assisted Advantage Commercial Real Estate through the legal process.

“The Advantage team is moving forward and will continue to focus on our clients, representing their interests in each and every transaction they are engaged in,” Kuiper said. “Despite the lengthy process of litigation, the company was able to grow the business and service our clients exceptionally well.”

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