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Commercial Real Estate

CBRE Sues Chris Hipps, Claims Breach of Noncompete for Move to Cushman & Wakefield

Along with putting its longtime executive "in the garden" for up to two years, CBRE is seeking as much as $1 million in relief.
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Chris Hipps Cushman & Wakefield

Industry sources say Cushman & Wakefield installed a nameplate for its new Texas managing principal, Chris Hipps, in January, but that he has yet to step foot in the Dallas office.

That’s because CBRE has filed a lawsuit against Hipps, who planned to leave the global giant after 10 years to lead Lone Star State operations for Cushman.

CBRE claims Hipps—a respected leader who was the firm’s senior managing director of advisory and transaction services and investor services for DFW since the start of 2021—breached his employment contract by joining a direct competitor.

As a result of the lawsuit, a temporary injunction was ordered preventing Hipps from moving to his new leadership post at C&W. The court hearing is set for Jan. 6, 2025.

According to the injunction, “it is likely that [CBRE] will succeed on the merits of its claim against [Hipps]” because “the court finds that [CBRE] has adequately shown that [Hipps] has and continues to breach [his employment agreement].”

Hipps resigned from CBRE on Dec. 6, 2023. A day later, news broke that Hipps was joining C&W. Per the injunction, CBRE is seeking to prevent Hipps from directly or indirectly working with C&W until January 2025 initiating a “garden leave”—a practice where employees are required to serve out their notice periods away from the workplace, often at home, while still receiving salary and benefits, despite being restricted from performing any work for their employer or engaging with clients, suppliers, or colleagues.

The firm is also seeking to prevent Hipps from directly or indirectly serving as a principal, partner, member, investor, joint venturer, officer, director, manager, controller, operator, employee, or shareholder with any other competitor within 24 months of his resignation date—which would push him into January 2026.

And, CBRE is seeking monetary relief between $200,000 and $1 million. 

Hipps’ primary role with CBRE was to grow the firm’s capital markets, retail, industrial, and multifamily developments. His new post with C&W, the injunction states, is “substantially the same as his position at CBRE, and thus, [Hipps] is likely to be using CBRE’s confidential information.”

“[Hipps] has directly or indirectly solicited and/or communicated with CBRE clients in order to further a business relationship with said CBRE clients on behalf of Cushman & Wakefield; solicited CBRE clients to terminate or reduce their relationship with CBRE; and/or recruited, solicited, or induced a CBRE employee to terminate or alter his or her status as a CBRE employee.”

CBRE isn’t the only firm to go to court to attempt to protect its interests. In 2022, Cushman & Wakefield sued Mike McDonald and Jonathan Napper after committing to join JLL. C&W alleged the two brokers  broke their noncompetes. In that case, the judge filed an injunction ordering the brokers to stay away from real estate activity until the case was resolved, CoStar reported in February 2023.

The two brokers and C&W eventually came to a settlement agreement later in 2023.

Texas judges are beginning to start a trend in which they are more willing to side with businesses rather than individuals in noncompete cases. The Texas Free Enterprise and Antitrust Act of 1983 states that any agreement that limits competition is not allowed.

But, Texas legislature has enacted an exception to the rule that lets some noncompete agreements be enforceable on a case-by-case basis—mostly focusing on the issue of confidential information, trade secrets, and the need to protect goodwill.

Nationally, the Federal Trade Commission proposed a rule that would generally ban most noncompete clauses in the United States.

Local industry execs speaking on the condition of anonymity said if Hipps can’t get C&W to indemnify him, he will have to personally defend himself. “And CBRE has more money than God,” the source said. “You don’t want to get stuck in the middle of two multibillion-dollar corporations.”

Competition for real estate talent has become fierce—especially among the global giants, said another industry insider, also on the condition of anonymity. “[Hipps] could be the rope in a tug of war.”

Chris Hipps and Cushman & Wakefield did not immediately respond to D CEO‘s request for comment. CBRE declined to comment beyond the legal documents.

This story has been updated with clarifying information in regards to the lawsuit between Cushman & Wakefield and Napper and McDonald.

Authors

Ben Swanger

Ben Swanger

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Ben Swanger is the managing editor for D CEO, the business title for D Magazine. Ben manages the Dallas 500, monthly…
Christine Perez

Christine Perez

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Christine is the editor of D CEO magazine and its online platforms. She’s a national award-winning business journalist who has…

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