A car dealership broker has petitioned Westchester Supreme Court to enforce a $2.5 million arbitration award against Estate Motors and Charles Buonanno.
United Galaxy Associates of Ossining said it found a buyer last year for the Goldens Bridge Mercedes-Benz dealership, but Buonanno reneged on paying broker fees.
Arbitrator Peter L. Altieri ruled mostly in Galaxy’s favor, but he also found that the broker’s conduct in renegotiating fees was “shocking to the conscious.” He denied $1.72 million in commissions as “well beyond industry custom and practice.”
Thomas Maoli, owner of the Celebrity Motor Car Co. luxury car dealerships in New Jersey, bought Estate Motors for $21.5 million in March 2017.
A month after the transaction, Galaxy, managed by Anthony Assalone, filed a demand for payment with the American Arbitration Association. Efforts to mediate the dispute failed, and this past April an arbitration hearing was held for five days in White Plains.
Galaxy claimed breach of agreements. Buonanno accused the car broker of wrongdoing, including breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment and negligence.
Altieri rejected most of Buonanno’s arguments.
“Claims of fraud, duress, coercion,” he found, “fail for lack of proof.”
But Altieri was troubled by Galaxy’s demand to quadruple the commission rate, after the purchase agreement was executed, from 5 percent to 20 percent. The parties settled on 18 percent.
Buonanno offered credible proof, Altieri ruled, that Galaxy had “acted solely in its own interest when it threatened to kill the deal in conjunction with the re-negotiation of the rate.”
The broker’s Outlook calendar bears out the threat, Altieri reported, that if Buonanno did not accept the higher commission rate Galaxy “would sell something else” to Maoli.
Altieri lowered the commission rate to 10 percent. Galaxy could have been awarded $4.2 million in commissions and other fees, at the higher rate.
Instead, Altieri awarded Galaxy $2,480,000.