Lawsuits match Wilcoxes against Cases
The cousins are fighting over the 2000 sale of Grove Farm Co. on Kauai
LIHUE » For nearly 150 years, Grove Farm Co. Inc. was owned by members of the Wilcox family, so it was natural that some family members had problems parting with the former sugar cane plantation turned real estate development company after its 2000 sale.
No one could have expected billion-dollar lawsuits, though, or allegations that family members perpetrated fraud on each other.
Nonetheless, Kauai Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe will decide whether fraud was involved in the Grove Farm sale when a motion for summary judgment is heard today in a lawsuit pitting former shareholders against, in most cases, their cousins that used to sit on the board of directors.
Also named as defendants in the suit, originally filed in 2002, are the new owners, ALPS Acquisitions, a company owned by AOL founder Steve Case, and his father Daniel Case, partner in the firm Case Bigelow & Lombardi that served as counsel to Grove Farm at the time of the acquisition.
While the younger Case is not named as a direct defendant in the lawsuit heard today, he is named in two recent lawsuits filed in both federal court and in Kauai's Circuit Court by many of the same shareholders. The new Circuit Court case, filed last month, asks for nearly $3 billion in damages.
Today's proceeding, though, targets more the board of directors. The count of fraud alleges the board ignored better offers in favor of Case, whose father grew up on Grove Farm land and whose grandfather worked for Grove Farm for 40 years.
According to court documents, the board received at least three other offers from other companies, but those offers were never passed along to shareholders.
Lawyers for the defendants in the suit have said it's a case of seller's remorse after property values and the value of the company have skyrocketed since the sale.