[caption id="attachment_19319" align="alignleft" width="329"] Executives Errol Samuelson (left) and Curt Beardsley testify in the long running court battle between Move Inc and Zillow. Images courtesy of Geek Wire[/caption]
In a move which surprised the industry, Zillow has reached a $130 million settlement with Realtor.com operator Move Inc. and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to resolve a long running legal stoush over intellectual property a week earlier than expected .
The deal, which comes before the scheduled start of trial, ends a high-profile lawsuit over Zillow’s hiring of two former Move execs, Errol Samuelson and Curt Beardsley.
It is a much better result for the Seattle-based company than the imposition of as much as $2 billion in damages which NAR had threatened earlier in the proceedings.
Move, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, alleged that the former executives stole trade secrets and later tried to cover up their actions by destroying files and other evidence.that once threatened to against the Seattle-based real estate media giant.
Zillow and the executives admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement, according to an SEC filing this afternoon. The company’s shares are up 9 percent in after-hours trading.
According to Geek Wire Zillow said it has "reached an amicable resolution to settle our lawsuit with News Corp and the National Association of Realtors.
“The agreement allows us to put this litigation behind us, and continue our focus on innovation and the huge opportunity in front of us as the consumer-focused market leader.”
In a statement Move added the company is "pleased to have reached an amicable resolution of this litigation. We look forward to putting the matter to rest and returning our full focus to simplifying the real estate process for consumers and the real estate professionals who serve them.”
It has been an expensive legal battle for Zillow, which spent $27.1 million in the Move case last year, and had estimated that costs could surpass $60 million this year as it defended itself in the lawsuit.
Move sued Zillow and Samuelson in March 2014, just 12 days after Samuelson joined Zillow. A judge later barred Samuelson from performing many of his key duties as Zillow’s Chief Industry Development Officer, sidelining the exec for a year.
Move sued Beardsley in December 2014.
Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff has always denied that the company hired the executives for the purpose of gaining access to the real estate rival’s trade secrets or other confidential information.
As a result of the highly publicised component of the case in which Curt Beardsley defended his actions by alleging he haderased evidence to hide his pornography habit, Judge Sean P. O’Donnell granted Move a jury instruction that would have allowed the jury to infer that “the missing evidence would have benefitted plaintiffs’ case or alternatively hurt the defendant’s [case.]”
geek Wire says Beardsley was suspended by Zillow for two weeks without pay in 2015 in part for retaining Move information on his computer after he joined the Seattle company, according to testimony in the case.
Geek Wire also reports the case brought to light internal Zillow emails, including one in which Rascoff wrote to an industry executive about the hiring of the Move execs, “If you mess with the bull you get the horns. I don’t kid around.”
The report says a lawyer for Move also quoted from previously private emails in which Rascoff disparaged the appearance of former Move CEO Steve Berkowitz and Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman.
"Zillow’s CEO chided the Move lawyer in court, saying he was putting on a show for the reporters covering the trial by seeking to bring to light potentially embarrassing emails not directly related to the case," Geek Wire reports.