Real estate mogul Mike Pero has taken an injunction against one of his top selling agents which prevents her selling homes across a 25-kilometre radius of Christchurch.
Sonia Tafilipepe had worked for the firm since being headhunted in 2014. Known as the "listings machine" she owned several Christchurch franchises and sold about 80 homes last financial year alone, bringing in millions of dollars in commission.
She is also a published author on selling properties and prominent on the real estate industry public speaking circuit, addressing a seminar in Sydney earlier this year alongside Hollywood star and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
However, the high flying agent was apparently terminated in March following a breakdown in relations and alleged franchise agreement breach. This triggered a restraint of trade clause that prevents her listing or selling homes within a 25km radius of her old Belfast office or soliciting business from customers on Mike Pero's database.
Tafilipepe, 45, declined to comment when approached by the Herald today.
However, court documents show Mike Pero Real Estate took an injunction against her and her MPRE Belfast Ltd franchise earlier this month to enforce the restraint of trade provisions.
The 25km radius restriction is for four months from the March 17 termination date and due to lapse in July. However, a 3km restriction will last for two years.
A judgment issued on Monday by Judge Mander says Mike Pero Real Estate and Tafilipepe came into dispute regarding performance of the franchise agreement.
"Relations between the parties deteriorated and notice was given by Mike Pero of termination of the agreement."
In its injunction application, Mike Pero Real Estate alleged Tafilipepe was in breach of the restraint of trade clause "by rebranding her real estate business in the name of Dynamic Realty in direct competition with Mike Pero" and diverting Mike Pero Real Estate customers to the new business, the judgment says.
Tafilepepe denied the allegations.
"Mike Pero submitted the restraint on competition provision is a crucial aspect of a franchise agreement because of the intellectual property provided by the franchiser and the highly competitive nature of the New Zealand real estate industry," the judgment said.
Speaking to the Herald, Pero declined to specify why Tafilipepe had been terminated, other than saying she had breached obligations in her franchise agreement.
"People come and they go in this industry and from my perspective it was differences in views, I guess," Pero said.
"We terminated a franchise agreement because of differences. I can't think of anything else I want to say in the public space. It was a breach of agreement. It's commercially sensitive."
Pero denied the termination had anything to do with Tafilipepe's prominence on the public speaking circuit and said restraint of trade provisions were standard within the company at this level, as they were in other industries.
"The franchise agreement has obligations. Obligations weren't met in certain areas."
The case follows that of former Mike Pero Mortgages broker James Heath, who was barred from competing with the business by a two-year restraint of trade clause during a dispute in 2015.
The Herald reported in January that Pero may have to return $1.5 million after he admitting giving himself a hefty pay rise without the approval of the co-owner of his real estate business.