Watch CBS News

PulteGroup fires incoming COO for allegedly trolling founder's grandson

Home builder PulteGroup said it has fired executive Brandon Jones, who had been slated to become the company's chief operating officer on January 1, after he allegedly trolled its founder's grandson, Bill Pulte, a well-known philanthropist.

Jones' termination comes after Pulte filed a lawsuit on December 14 against the executive, accusing him of creating fake accounts and bots on Twitter to stalk, harass and defame Pulte. According to the lawsuit, Jones — who had worked at PulteGroup for 18 years — wrote comments that cast aspersions on Pulte, calling his family a "mess" and accusing him of "entitlement."

With 3.2 million followers on Twitter, Pulte is perhaps best known for his use of social media to donate money to people in need, calling himself the inventor of #TwitterPhilanthropy and telling CBS News in 2020 that people "at first thought I was a little crazy." But in his lawsuit against Jones, Pulte claims Jones engaged in a "vindictive campaign of falsehoods as a means to sully Pulte's good name and the charitable work in which he engages."

Bill Pulte in car
Bill Pulte with CBS reporter Carol Cain. CBS 62

"Uncaring media machine"

"I'd rather focus on growing businesses and direct giving on Twitter," Pulte wrote Tuesday on Twitter. "That being said, we need an apology & finer details from Jones which is why I'm suing him (in his personal capacity)." He added that PulteGroup is conducting its own investigation into the issue.

Jones' attorney, Mark Raymond, said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch that the lawsuit "contains many falsehoods and inaccuracies, chief among them the provably false allegation that Mr. Jones is using or has ever used "bots" or "bot networks." 

Raymond added, "Unfortunately, Bill Pulte's far-fetched claims have had their desired effect, causing Mr. Jones' termination from the job that he loved, and public humiliation at the hands of Mr. Pulte's relentless and uncaring media machine." 

The attorney said Jones "looks forward to the facts becoming known."

The lawsuit states that Pulte, while on the board of PulteGroup, had opposed Jones' promotion to COO, claiming that he wasn't qualified for the position. The board agreed with him, and Jones wasn't promoted. But after Pulte left the board in 2020, Jones was tapped for the promotion to COO. 

According to the lawsuit, Jones set up a series of fake Twitter accounts to respond to Pulte's tweets with insinuations and false claims. He also allegedly tagged reporters and news organizations with some of his responses, which the lawsuit said was an attempt to "broaden the reach of his false and defamatory remarks."

For instance, in one case, Pulte tweeted about a fire that destroyed a Michigan golf club where his father had been a member, expressing sadness about the loss of the building and job losses and calling for an investigation into the fire. Jones allegedly responded, via a fake account, that Bill Pulte "mentioned his father Mark Pulte and an investigation into the fire. Sounds like he may suspect his father." 

"Was Mark Pulte involved in the fire? Mark Pulte recently bought a competitor course. Is that a coincidence?" Jones added, including several Michigan media outlets and journalists in his responses, the lawsuit claims. 

Other tweets grew personal, claiming that PulteGroup employees "hated" Bill Pulte, with one reading, "My friend was laid off because of you. The employees blame you." Another one read, "Employees hated him. That's why he constantly panders to them." 

Other tweets targed the Pulte family, the lawsuit alleges, with one tweet reading: "Pulte Family is kind of a mess. Money does that."

PulteGroup, founded in 1950, is the nation's third-largest home builder and has built about 750,000 homes across the U.S., according to the company's website.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.