UPDATED — J.P. Weigand & Sons filed a lawsuit in Sedgwick County District Court on Friday against former Weigand vice president and general manager Richelle Knotts and her new businesses, Reece & Nichols Realtors and ReeceNichols South Central Kansas.
“Needless to say, we’re shocked,” Knotts says.
She says she needs to review the lawsuit before making further comment.
“We just received the paperwork ourselves.”
In an e-mailed statement, Weigand chairman and CEO Nestor Weigand Jr. said, “Filing this lawsuit has been a difficult and unprecedented decision for our company and not one we took lightly.”
The suit follows a major shakeup for the longtime real estate firm, which has been a leader in commercial and residential real estate in Wichita and Kansas. There have been a number of high-profile defections from Weigand to ReeceNichols since the company started doing business here. That includes Cindy Carnahan and her Carnahan Group along with the Rupp-Steven team.
“Unfortunately, following Ms. Knott’s voluntary resignation from J.P. Weigand in January of this year, a number of troubling facts related to her performance have come to light,” Weigand’s statement said.
“We concluded that Ms. Knotts’ actions and the actions of Reece & Nichols Realtors, Inc. and ReeceNichols South Central Kansas, LLC as outlined in our court petition were done with the intent to weaken J.P. Weigand and place our company at a competitive disadvantage. Given the gravity of the issues involved, we were compelled to pursue legal action.”
Weigand’s e-mail said that because it is a legal matter, he and the company aren’t commenting further.
The suit alleges breach of fiduciary duty, wrongful use of trade secrets and interference with Weigand’s business among other things. It also alleges that Knotts unjustly enriched herself or embezzled from Weigand by paying herself too much — $228,341.78 — while selling homes in the Parkway development within the Waterfront.
The Waterfront figures into the suit in another way as well.
According to the lawsuit, Knotts had been a big part of Weigand’s decision to buy land in late 2017 for a new east-side office.
Sources say that land is a large lot along 13th Street at the Waterfront.
The suit says after Knotts decided to join ReeceNichols but before she left, she persuaded Weigand against building the new office.
“She knew at the time that if Weigand were to construct a new office for its agents, it might be more difficult to lure those agents to work for a ReeceNichols franchisee,” the suit says.
It further says Knotts and ReeceNichols “misappropriated the trade secrets of Weigand in order to lure away and deplete” the firm and that Weigand has lost 40 agents and about $1.1 million a year.
Look for more information as it’s available.