What is it like to negotiate a prenuptial agreement when you are about to marry into one of the wealthiest families in the United States?
If you are marrying into the Rollins family--the folks behind Orkin Pest Control, Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment, RPC Inc., and other profitable enterprises--you don't negotiate it. You receive a massive document at the last moment, and then have a family lawyer more or less try to force it down your throat. If you refuse to sign it, and the wedding goes ahead anyway, brace yourself in the event of a divorce; the Rollins family will gather its considerable resources and find a judge who will cheat you in ways that are almost beyond comprehension.
That's the experience of Birmingham resident Sherry Carroll Rollins, who was a Rollins spouse for about 10 years. Her divorce was finalized in Shelby County, Alabama, in 2005, but the fallout continues for Ms. Rollins and the two daughters she had with Ted Rollins. The courtroom cheat job administered by Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson was so horrific that Ms. Rollins and her girls wound up on food stamps--even though Ted Rollins owns multiple private jets and is CEO of a company, Campus Crest Communities, that completed a $380-million Wall Street IPO in 2010.
Why were members of the Rollins family willing to resort to criminal behavior to gain the upper hand in an Alabama divorce case? Evidence strongly suggests it's because Ted Rollins chose to marry Sherry Carroll without a prenuptial agreement--and that meant his inheritance and income from various business interests, many of which involve other family members, were at risk in the event of a divorce.
Was Sherry Carroll adamantly opposed to a prenuptial agreement, in general? The answer appears to be no. After all, prenups have become a common part of the marital experience, even in cases where major family wealth is not involved. Many Web sites state that prenups are a good idea for all kinds of couples, and they should be negotiated when both parties have proper representation and time to consider all of the provisions.
Is that how the Rollins family approached the subject with Sherry Carroll? Not exactly. She was living in Birmingham when she met Ted Rollins via a business associate who had helped decorate a Marriott hotel that the Rollins family had built. As the relationship became serious, Ms. Carroll and her youngest son, Zac, lived for a while with Rollins in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he ran an investment company.
When they decided to get married, the ceremony was to be in Alabama. The night before they were to head South, a prenup suddenly appeared. Here is how Sherry Carroll Rollins described it in an e-mail to me a few months ago:
The night before I left to go to my wedding with [Ted]; the fax machine began spitting out pages of a prenup for me to sign. In it, it stated that Ted could choose any hospital for me and even against my own will. I went to him with the [stuff] from his lawyer, threw it in his face, and told him I was going back to Charlottesville and started getting in the car to go. He came out, tore up the pages, and threw them all over. He said, "[Screw] a prenup; I want to marry you, and this is stupid." So I never signed anything.
The proposed prenup was about 70 pages long, Ms. Rollins says now. Frank Bredimus, a lawyer in Leesburg, Virginia, prepared the document, and Ms. Rollins later would learn that Bredimus and her husband had an unusually close relationship. In fact, Bredimus came to Shelby County to testify falsely that he and Ms. Rollins had an affair during the course of her marriage. Ms. Rollins provided more details about the prenup issue in a recent e-mail to me:
You might be interested to know that the night before we left to go to Alabama to get married and then onto Lake Como, Italy, the fax machine went crazy and around 70 pages were spit out of it. I picked them up before Ted came home; I had never been so shocked; it was a prenup written by his best friend Frank Bredimus, the one who lives in Leesburg, Va., on a farm [that] Ted purchased for him. The most disturbing thing of the few pages I read was that [Ted] would be able to put me in any health care institution or hospital of his choice without my permission. He was to be my power of attorney over all decisions in my future life.
I threw the papers at him when he came home; I was not packed and I told him the whole thing was off. I stayed up most of the night, trying to figure out what he thought I was. I told him that if he wanted to be my warden from now on, that I was leaving the next day and going back to Charlottesville and taking Zac with me and opening up my design office again. . . . He begged, he pleaded and he tore up the prenup completely; he said it was all Frank's idea. I never heard anything about it again. I guarantee you that is why they spent so much money screwing me over in two states; Ted's inheritance was at stake and St. James Capital, as well.
Under the circumstances, it's easy to understand why Sherry Carroll refused to sign a prenuptial agreement. Here is perhaps the bigger question now: Why did Ted Rollins go ahead with the wedding anyway?
We will address that question in upcoming posts.