Case found innocent in Grove Farm suit
A Honolulu Federal Court yesterday struck down claims against AOL co-founder Steve Case relating to his December 2000 buyout of Kauai plantation Grove Farm Co.
U.S. District Judge Robert Jones found that the Hawaii-born Case didn't engage in any federal security wrongdoing relating to a suit filed in 2005 by a group of former Grove Farm shareholders. They claimed that Case and his companies obtained confidential inside information in the purchase of Grove Farm's shares.
After two years of litigation, Jones found that the shareholders failed to prove their claims, dismissing more than $2.5 billion in damages sought against Case.
"We are especially pleased that after 50 witnesses testified at the monthlong trial the court recognized that Mr. Case did nothing improper in purchasing all of Grove Farm's stock," said Paul Alston, who helped represent Case in the suit.
Matthew Simmons, who was representing the shareholders in the case, did not return an after-hours call to his Maryland office for comment.
Grove Farm, a former sugar company founded by G.N. Wilcox in the 1800s, controlled thousands of acres and the largest shopping center on Kauai in 2000. With a slump in the Kauai economy and little cash, the company's directors said they had few options but to sell. Shareholders then questioned whether the company was in danger and said the board did little to find the best price before choosing Case's bid of $25 million and $60 million in debt.