|Sarah Rollins (right), with her|
sister, Emma, and father, Ted
A recent appellate-court ruling in Atlanta means a Georgia jury soon might hear details about billionaires Gary and Randall Rollins and their curious management of family trust accounts. Here is how we summed up the issues in that case:
Randall and Gary Rollins are the heads of Atlanta-based Rollins Inc., the umbrella company for Orkin Pest Control, RPC Inc. (formerly Rollins Energy Services), and other entities. But they now stand accused of essentially raiding trust funds for their own benefit, and a Georgia court has found those claims should go to trial.
A similar case might someday unfold here in Alabama. Birmingham resident Sherry Rollins says she has seen evidence that her daughter, Sarah Rollins, has a trust fund that was established by her grandfather, John W. Rollins Sr. But Sarah Rollins, who now is 19 years old, knows almost nothing about the fund. Laws in most states hold that an 18-year-old is considered an adult and is entitled to know about provisions of a trust fund.
But Ted Rollins--who is John Rollins' son, Sarah's father, and Sherry's ex husband--does not seem to be interested in following such laws. In fact, Sherry Rollins reports, he has taken extraordinary steps to keep his daughter's trust fund under wraps. (Note: Ted and Sherry Rollins have a second daughter, Emma, who now is 15 and lives with her mother in Birmingham. It is not clear if Emma has a trust fund. Emma was about 2 years old when John Rollins Sr. died in April 2000, and he had been seriously ill for most the time between her birth and his death. It is unknown if he was able to establish a trust fund in Emma Rollins' name.)
Why would Ted Rollins be secretive about his daughter's trust fund? As CEO of Campus Crest Communities, Rollins has seen his company receive more than $730 million in Wall Street investment funds. You might think that the chairman of a publicly traded company would be used to a certain amount of transparency regarding financial matters. But Ted Rollins seems to be anything but transparent when it comes to his daughter's trust fund.
Allegations in the pending Georgia lawsuit hint that Randall and Gary Rollins, Ted's cousins, have used family trust funds for their own benefit, committing serious breaches of fiduciary duty. Is Ted Rollins, perhaps with the help of family accounting gurus, doing the same thing to Sarah Rollins?
We will examine that question in a series of upcoming posts. But first, let's look at information that points to the existence of a Sarah Rollins trust fund. It surfaced when Sherry and Ted Rollins still were married and living in Greenville, South Carolina. Here is how Sherry Rollins described her "Aha moment" in an e-mail to Legal Schnauzer:
When I lived in Greenville, S.C., I practiced Spanish so that I could converse with the Hispanic women who cleaned Ted's office, on the top floor of the First Union Building. He was just starting St. James Capital and had formed a partnership with Randall Rollins and his dad [John Rollins Sr.], where Ted would purchase various real estate around the country and develop it. He had just purchased the Crescent Center in Greenville, S.C., for St. James Capital. He later moved his offices to the Crescent Center.
He was out of town that week; I left the girls with the maid, and went in the early evening to his office. I walked past the guard, and he told me to sign in. I signed in. I went to the top floor to Ted's office. I spoke to the maids and told them that I had to do some work on the computer and that I was Ted's wife.
I went to his secretary's desk. I sat down and found a yellow legal pad with a list of all his files written in it.
One thing on the page caught my eye: Sarah's Trust Fund; it listed where it could be found on the computer.
That wasn't the only intriguing information Sherry Rollins uncovered on that trip to her husband's office. And on a subsequent trip, a scene right out of a John Grisham movie unfolded before her eyes.
(To be continued)
Previously in the series:
New Court Ruling Might Force Wealthy Rollins Clan To Allow Light Into Some Dark Financial Corners (April, 23, 2013)