|An illustration of the Rollins family|
from Forbes magazine
That is just one of many juicy tidbits in a new Forbes magazine article about the Rollins family, which has been the focus of numerous posts here at Legal Schnauzer. Title of the Forbes piece is "Inside An $8 Billion Family Feud: Who Poisoned the Orkin Fortune?"
The Rollins family has a significant presence in Alabama, and we have focused largely on their legal and business issues in "The Heart of Dixie." Of special interest has been a divorce case in Shelby County, where Sherry Carroll Rollins received what we have called "the worst courtroom cheat job in our experience" in her divorce from Ted Rollins, the CEO of Campus Crest Communities. Shelby County Circuit Judge Al Crowson played a central role in the Rollins divorce fiasco, taking the case even though it already had been litigated in South Carolina for three years and clear case law (see Wesson v. Wesson, 628 So. 2d 953, Ala. Civ. App, 1993) shows the jurisdiction could not lawfully be changed.
Ted Rollins has major business interests in Alabama, with student-housing complexes already built or going up on five campuses in the state--at South Alabama, Troy, Jacksonville State, Auburn, and the University of Alabama.
The Rollins family has two primary branches, with Ted belonging to what might be called the "Delaware/Carolina" branch, descending from Ted's father, John Rollins Sr. The other branch mainly is in Georgia, descending from Wayne Rollins, John Sr.'s brother.
At the heart of the current controversy are Gary and Randall Rollins, Wayne's sons who head up Rollins Inc. (parent company of Orkin) and are worth about $2.7 billion each, ranking No. 225 on the Forbes 400
Forbes focuses almost entirely on the Georgia branch and its struggles over trust funds, divorces, and related ugliness. The article does not mention Ted Rollins by name, making only reference to him as a cousin to Gary and Randall,
We have reported on the trust-fund controversy in several posts, and Forbes Reporter Clare O'Connor provides important new details, producing some top-notch journalism along the way. Here is how she describes issues swirling around the Rollins family in Atlanta:
Orkin, and the nine related extermination companies housed under Rollins Inc., remains the leading company in pest control: rats, roaches and their ilk are as perennial in this world as sticky Atlanta summers. But for the Rollins family, the party is over.
Glen has sued his father, Gary, CEO of Rollins Inc., as well as his uncle Randall, company chairman. Glen’s three siblings also joined in, claiming they were being denied their rightful cash allocations–though Randall’s five kids stuck by their dad and Gary. Ruthie apparently took her kids’ side in the money fight, filing for divorce from Gary, after 45 years, at almost precisely the same time. And then Glen and Danielle began their own ugly divorce. The cumulative effect–father vs. sons, wives vs. husbands, cousins vs. cousins–makes this one of the nastiest intergenerational battles ever to take place among members of The Forbes 400 (Gary and Randall rank 225th on the list, at $2.7 billion each). “It’s like a Greek tragedy,” says Danielle.
Wealthy families, it seems, often wrestle mightily with trust funds and estate matters. One of the best-known cases involved Liesel Pritzker, a member of the family behind Hyatt Hotels. She and her brother had to sue to receive trust proceeds that were designated for them.
The Rollins story mirrors the Liesel Pritzker story, with a few extra oddball twists thrown in. In 2000, Gary and Randall set up eligibility requirements that their children had to meet in order to receive trust proceeds. Chief among the requirements was that the children be engaged in "meaningful pursuits."
The patriarchs decided to up the ante in 2010. Writes O'Connor:
IN 2010 GARY AND RANDALL, facing a generation that grew up rudderless, tried to offset any issues in how they were raised with bureaucracy–and policing. Keen to measure how carefully their kids were adhering to the eligibility requirements they’d set up a decade earlier, they constructed yet another formal mechanism, something called the Rollins Perpetual Management Trust. It was intended, say court documents, “to serve as the vehicle through which the governance of the family and its assets is established in perpetuity.”
Critically, it “provided for a ‘monitoring program’ that permitted Gary and Randall … to hire private investigators to follow the plaintiffs around, conduct credit checks and drug tests, and review their medical records.” Gary and Randall sought to install themselves as joint trustees, forcing their kids to agree to the new terms or lose their annual payments. It was viewed as a declaration of war.
What about the sex-addiction component to the story. That's where Gary's son, Glen, enters the picture. He went through a nasty divorce from his socialite wife, Danielle:
But there were other reasons Glen may not have wanted to have private investigators nosing around. While for most of Atlanta business society he was still the golden-boy corporate chieftain with a steady hand on Orkin’s tiller, in truth his personal life was an utter disaster. He was struggling with a sex addiction that included a rehabilitative stint at the same place golfer Tiger Woods was treated. “I got some help for a tremendously stressful period,” says Glen. “I had a lot to heal from.” His marriage was unraveling. Glen and Danielle’s Buckhead estate, Boxwood, appeared in a spread in the August 2010 edition of Town and Country. Photos show the lavish, tasteful interiors, newly revamped by high-profile interior designer Miles Redd. In one shot the five family members smile from inside a black Mercedes convertible.
That was a last glimpse at a life already passing from view. Days later Glen and his siblings filed their suit. His mom, Ruthie, filed for divorce from his father two days later, citing “no hope for reconciliation.” Glen was fired from Orkin soon after and cut off from the trust. Over the past four years the Rollins case moved in and out of Atlanta courtrooms through months of hearings, an overturned judgment by the Georgia Supreme Court and two appeals. One of the at least eight lawyers on the case has already made upwards of $1 million from legal fees, says a relative. The kind of sickening numbers that make an entrepreneur want to give it all away.
“It’s like dominos,” says Glen’s ex-wife, Danielle. “My children have lost grandparents, cousins. Their heritage.”
One lawyer already has made around $1 million on the case? It's not clear who will be the losers in the Rollins controversy. But it looks like lawyers will be the winners.