A California real estate developer who sold billionaire Mark Zuckerberg rights to buy the house behind his Palo Alto home says the Facebook Inc. (FB:US) founder didn’t keep his end of the bargain.
Developer Mircea Voskerician says he gave the executive a 40 percent discount on the $4.3 million property in 2012 because he was promised introductions and referrals to boost his business that never materialized. He sued Zuckerberg to get the house back, claiming fraud, breach of contract and misrepresentation.
Zuckerberg’s lawyers argued Voskerician’s claim had no basis in law or fact but the developer won an early round in the case this week when a state court judge in San Jose, California, provisionally refused Zuckerberg’s request to throw out claims in the lawsuit.
Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas said the oral agreement Voskerician claims to have had with Zuckerberg isn’t barred and that the developer can proceed with claims that the accord should be rescinded and the property returned, according to a tentative ruling published two days ago.
Voskerician was in contract to buy a house in Palo Alto that he planned to replace with a new one when he learned that Zuckerberg lived on the other side of the property’s fence, according to his lawsuit.
In a series of meetings at the property and Facebook’s headquarters, Zuckerberg said he wanted to buy the property from Voskerician, who’d already been offered $4.3 million by another developer to sell his rights to the house, according to the complaint.
Zuckerberg said he couldn’t pay that sum and wanted a discount, according to the lawsuit. Voskerician sold him the property for $1.7 million.
In exchange for the discount, “Zuckerberg would introduce Voskerician to his friends, clients and associates and promote Voskerician’s real estate development business,” according to the complaint.
The two had a written contract for the sale, and the promise of referrals “was reflected in a writing accepted by the parties as a statement of their written agreement,” according to the lawsuit.
David Draper, an attorney for Voskerician, declined to comment on the ruling. Patrick Gunn, Zuckerberg’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to a voice-mail message seeking comment.
The case is Voskerician v Zuckerberg, 114CV264667, Superior Court of the California, County of Santa Clara (San Jose).
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