Help with well known yacht broker dispute

yachtwork

Member
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I have a situation that maybe the forum can give me some advice on. It goes like this. I was captain of a large cat in charter in the Caribbean and the USA. When the time came to sell the boat the yacht broker and I came to an agreement through multiple emails where I would receive 20% of the brokerage commission for my help in selling the vessel. I was to make up a series of videos touting the vessel's qualities and then field phone calls and emails to help sell the boat. I did all of that and the videos received well over 600k views.
The boat languased unsold for over six years and I had long since left the vessel but kept handling the phone calls and emails. One day an interesting prospect called and I spent much time on the phone till he decided to put in an offer on the multimillion-dollar boat.
Here is where things get interesting.
The buyer sends a letter of intent to purchase to the broker. Three days later the broker sends me an unsolicited email claiming
  • he and his company had lost the yacht listing
  • He and the company put all the work into the sale and in the end, the boat did not sell
  • so, no sale thus no commission.
  • Even if they had sold the boat he had sold the brokerage to his friend thus our contract was void
  • tough luck
The broker obviously did not know that had been working with the new prospect when he sent me the email claiming "no sale". I suspect the broker thought I would be none the wiser that the boat now had a contract to purchase. When I confronted the broker he then claimed that yes the boat did sell, but not by his company. I then pointed out that his brokerage claims on their Facebook page that they proudly brokered the sale.

Since then I have had no luck making headway in obtaining any compensation from the brokerage. I am now considering options and thinking maybe the vast knowledge of this forum might have some ideas for a path forward.

At this point, I am all ears.
 

yachtwork

Member
65
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Got anything in writing?
That is an interesting question. I have a series of emails. I am not a lawyer but when I read Florida law it states that in order for a contract to be valid there has to be an offer, a counter offer, and acceptance. I think I have that criterion in emails. The broker has not made any claim that doesn't have a contract as of yet.
I say Florida because the broker claimed he is a "Licensed and Bonded Yacht and Ship Broker in Florida." Strangely when I look up his license he is only shown as a salesman, not a broker. It appears a salesman can only do what a broker tells him to do.
 

MR.CLEAN

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That is a great question. My share would have been about 19k. What do you think?
It will cost you $1500-2500 to have a competent lawyer review the documents, have a consultation with you, and give you a summary of your options. You might be able to get a demand letter written inside that budget too. It will likely fail.

Any deeper and the meter will be running. If you have to litigate and you don't have a lawyer in the family or close friend group, no way would $19k be enough to justify it. My general belief on US civil litigation is: $50k minimum for simple litigation unless (a) it's a slam dunk or (b) the situation is such where the winner recovers legal fees from the loser, making it more attractive to the lawyer. It sounds like in your case you made it very much the opposite from easy: (a) no written contract, (b) no due diligence on the broker, and c) no ongoing monitoring of the situation between the broker and boat owner.

DISCLAIMER*****The foregoing is general informational advice, not specific to any jurisdiction, and your reading of it and/or my provision of it does not form an attorney-client relationship between us. Seek legal advice from a licensed attorney in your area.
 

Parma

Super Anarchist
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here
When I confronted the broker he then claimed that yes the boat did sell, but not by his company. I then pointed out that his brokerage claims on their Facebook page that they proudly brokered the sale.
But if he sold the company then it was not his brokerage claiming to have sold the boat, it was the new owners who made the commission, not the person with whom you had the agreement, so you'd get 20% of zero.

I'd say that if you emails clearly state that the agreement for you to receive 20% from the brokerage or the broker for your participation extends into perpetuity no matter who sells the boat or who owns the brokerage, then you have a case.

Speaking from the learning experiences of being cheated out of greater amounts, I'd advise you to move on.
 

MR.CLEAN

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But if he sold the company then it was not his brokerage claiming to have sold the boat, it was the new owners who made the commission, not the person with whom you had the agreement, so you'd get 20% of zero.
Not necessarily.
I'd say that if you emails clearly state that the agreement for you to receive 20% from the brokerage or the broker for your participation extends into perpetuity no matter who sells the boat or who owns the brokerage, then you have a case.
Not necessarily
Speaking from the learning experiences of being cheated out of greater amounts, I'd advise you to move on.
Agree. Take the L, learn the lesson: It's a lot cheaper to spend the $1500 legal fee up front to get an enforceable contract than it is to fight about it later. Anytime there is more than a dinner at stake, do it right.
 
This is the piece that would bother me about any claim you might have
over six years and I had long since left the vessel but kept handling the phone calls and emails. One day an interesting prospect called and I spent much time on the phone till he decided to put in an offer on the multimillion-dollar boat.

It is one thing if owner of the vessel or the broker referred all inquiries to you, and your phone number appeared on the listing. But if this is a prospective buyer doing his own due diligence by checking in with former captains of the vessel, that is another thing.

If we assume the former (and I don't) then @MR.CLEAN advice reflects the old adage that possession is nine tenths of the law. If the broker has gotten his commission then it is hard to get your share without spending money to get it. I dont think it will be $50,000, because the other side will not want to spend $50,000 to keep $19,000 . Both of you will have a threshold of pain. If a lawyer looked at the documentation you claim to have , it will cost you $1,000 to $2,000 to get told you have nothing to stand on or you have a good claim. If you have a genuinely good claim, the lawyers on both sides will probably allow about $10,000 of fees each thrashing it out before the other side concedes , or discover the flaw in your claim and you concede.

However there is another possible route. If the transaction has not closed. Then presumably both owner and buyer know you well. If they feel that the work you put in was essential to the transaction, then share the correspondence with them. Especially this bit!
he and his company had lost the yacht listing
If your former owner and the buyer truly value your role, then they can inquire if this is true, and thus no commission is due on the sale or perhaps the broker would be willing to compromise on a commission less $20,000.
Then the boot is on the other foot and the broker has to decide if he wants to spend $20,000 suing for $20,000.

However;
1. If you were not an active part of the ongoing brokerage , long since left the boat , with nothing but a 6 year old email offering the current captain a bonus to help sell the boat.
2. The owner and buyer do not support your claim as an essential component of the transaction
3. The transaction is complete.

Then, my friend, too little, too late.

DISCLAIMER: The foregoing commentary is not advice and your reading of it and my writing of it does create an attorney-client relationship between us.
 
Agree. Take the L, learn the lesson: It's a lot cheaper to spend the $1500 legal fee up front to get an enforceable contract than it is to fight about it later. Anytime there is more than a dinner at stake, do it right.
That there is the most useful commentary on the thread.

20% on the sale of a multi-million dollar yacht is more than dinner. Hell, I bet you could have found a lawyer 6 years ago to whip up something for you for $500 and had the broker pay for it....it is less than the cost of having a professional videographer fly out to the Caribbean

The reason that people complain about lawyers is because they are too cheap to pay the small cost up front. How many people do million dollar deals (eg. marriage license) on a kiss or a handshake without a contract?......because their deal is so much more special than 50% of the American average. $19,000 is an inexpensive lesson.
 

yachtwork

Member
65
9
Is it a specialist Multihull broker? I had major Broker to Broker trouble with an arrogant arsehole who is or was a principal with one of the biggest.
Lol, Yes it is. We might be dealing with the same broker, well salesman now that I took the time to look up his credentials.
 
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yachtwork

Member
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But if he sold the company then it was not his brokerage claiming to have sold the boat, it was the new owners who made the commission, not the person with whom you had the agreement, so you'd get 20% of zero.

I'd say that if you emails clearly state that the agreement for you to receive 20% from the brokerage or the broker for your participation extends into perpetuity no matter who sells the boat or who owns the brokerage, then you have a case.

Speaking from the learning experiences of being cheated out of greater amounts, I'd advise you to move on.
You bring up an interesting point. So my contract was with the brokerage company. Then the company changed hands and thus the broker, well salesman, claims my contract is void due to the company sale. I responded that if that is the case then that same logic should apply to the boat sales contract. If they had made a new contract with the boat sale then I would accept that and go away. But to my knowledge, the old contract stood for the boat sale.
 

gt-MTb

Member
59
40
This is probably a bad idea... Clean is probably right the smart thing is to move along.... but if you want to have some fun....

Tell the broker you just remembered some things about the history of the boat... and you feel obliged to call the new owner since you have a friendship with them...

He might not be scared of you, but bet they might be a little scared of a guy that bought a multi-million dollar boat getting his lawyer involved claiming failure to disclose... or maybe more scared he will tell his rich friends about the shitty brokerage...

Call it a Hail Mary... just careful with words to not get yourself in trouble for extortion... :)
 

CapDave

Member
393
317
Sint Maarten
It's not enough money to justify the brain damage of such a conflicted situation. Take that time, energy, and attention, and direct it to something positive - your mental and physical health will thank you. And it's a relatively cheap lesson - next time you do business, do indeed get some legal help to have a written agreement.
 

yachtwork

Member
65
9
I should mention that I called a lawyer in Philly, where this company is supposed to be based. He looked at the info and gave me the opinion that the company is set up so even if we get a judgment they can just ignore it because of the company structure.

Then because the three brokers involved are "bonded" I searched out their bond companies and filed a bond claim on each of them. I learned a lot about bonds on that adventure. That could be a post in itself. The reason I went for the bond was in Florida law 326 (I think) about boat brokerages they specifically use the word "deceit" and that is all that has to be shown to have a bond claim. I claimed that the broker sending me an email that the boat did not sell while they had just received a letter to purchase was deceit.

What I found out is the bond company gets to decide if they pay their own money to a bond claim. So there is an inherent conflict of interest in that system. In the end, I would say bonds don't mean much but I did go through the motions.

I also found out that a broker's bond is 25k while a salesman's bond is only 10k. So the salesman representing himself as a broker also then gives a false sense of security.

I also tried to put through a complaint against their Florida licenses but found that the state brokerage website is simply broken and complaints don't go anywhere or to any human. Then I searched out the chief investigator for Florida and got him on the phone and found that they don't investigate much of anything. I can't imagine what his whole office does and he could only point to one ongoing investigation for the whole state. The only case I could find before that on the net was years ago. And all the articles asked why it took so long for any action to be taken by the agency.

I asked about the salesman representing himself as a broker and was told as long as a broker will vouch for a salesman then the salesman can claim he is a broker. That seems really odd to me and I hope that logic does not apply to heart surgeons and pilots also.
 
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