Zillow and a just-recruited top executive were sued Monday by one of the Seattle-based company’s biggest competitors, which claims its trade secrets are threatened by the new hire.
Move, a publicly traded company that booked $227 million in sales last year, alleged that Errol Samuelson, formerly its chief strategy officer and president of its Realtor.com venture with the National Association of Realtors, “arranged to defect to Zillow, destroyed evidence and then resigned from Move without notice.” The National Association of Realtors joined as plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed in King County Superior Court.
Move is suing Samuelson for misappropriating trade secrets, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Samuelson, a Vancouver, B.C., resident, joined Zillow on March 5 as chief industry-development officer after more than a decade with Move, according to the lawsuit.
Zillow said Tuesday that Samuelson is not currently an employee of Zillow but is a consultant.
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Zillow and Move are two of the top three consumer sites online for the U.S. residential-real-estate market.
Move alleges that Samuelson “planned his defection to Zillow over the course of several weeks.” On March 4, after meeting Zillow executives and deciding to join the company, Samuelson erased all memory from the laptop, iPhone and iPad he was issued by Move for business, Move alleges.
The next day, Move alleges, Samuelson told the head of human resources he was resigning immediately to join Zillow and that Zillow would issue a press release the same day. Zillow already has pocketed some trade secrets, Move alleges, and if Samuelson keeps his job at Zillow, the disclosure of its trade secrets is “inevitable.”
Zillow, which announced March 5 that Samuelson would report directly to its CEO, has not yet responded to the lawsuit.
Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter @sbhatt