Zillow pays $130 million to settle with Move and NAR

06 Jun 2016

Zillow Group agreed to pay $130 million U.S. in an “amicable” — ha! — settlement of the lawsuit filed by  News Corp. and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) against Zillow for hiring away several Move Inc. executives and alleged theft of trade secrets.

The settlement was announced this afternoon, after the closing of the stock market, in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The lawsuit was filed after Errol Samuelson and Curt Beardsley jumped from Move Inc. to Zillow (NYSE: Z). Move Inc., the NAR and various subsidiaries accused Zillow Inc. of misappropriation of trade secrets, tortious interference, breach of fiduciary duties and breach of contract after it hired Samuelson, the former president at Move, and Beardsley, its VP of business development.

Hearings and depositions in the case were extremely salacious, with disclosures that a wide range of material was deleted from Beardsley’s computer at Zillow. Zillow claimed the erasures were not done to eliminate any trade secrets, but to hide Beardsley’s visits to porn sites. (Inman.com has covered the lawsuit on an ongoing basis; here’s one sample of its terrific coverage.)

Zillow has 14 days to wire-transfer the $130 million to the plaintiffs, after which the lawsuit will be dismissed. The settlement agreement did not disclose whether Samuelson and Beardsley would remain with Zillow, but also did not give any indication that they would be forced to leave.

“Zillow Group, Inc., … reached an amicable resolution by way of a settlement agreement and rlease … with Move, Inc., the National Association of Realtors, and three related entities … with respect to the lawsuit … filed against the company, Errol Samuelson, the company’s chief industry development officer, and Curt Beardsley, the company’s vice president of MLS Partnerships,” the SEC filing said. “The parties have agreed to dismiss all claims and counterclaims with prejudice, and the company has agreed to pay Plaintiffs $130 million in connection with the settlement of claims.

“The settlement agreement does not contain any admission of liability, wrongdoing, or responsibility by any of the parties.”

While the agreement may “not contain any admission,” etc., the $130 million sure does!

Zillow is cleaning up its legal books. It recently settled a lawsuit involving claims of harassment at one of its California offices and also has reached an agreement (although not a full settlement) of claims that it forced employees to work uncompensated overtime.

Move Inc. is a subsidiary of News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWSA).

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Peter M. Zollman

Peter M. Zollman brings more than 35 years of media experience to his role as founding principal of the AIM Group / Classified Intelligence Report. He has worked with a wide range of media companies, dot-coms, technology providers and start-ups to develop and expand successful interactive-media services. He is based in Altamonte Springs, Fla., near Orlando.