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A judge in Florida has granted German billionaire Alexander Otto’s motion to remove more than two dozen companies as third parties from Otto’s high-stakes divorce case. But there is a dispute about whether Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Gerald D. Hubbart’s order earlier this month barring the parties from publicly disclosing financial information about Otto’s family holdings is still in effect. Many people would like to see that information because the Otto family — Alexander, 36, four siblings and his father, Werner — currently face scrutiny by U.S. securities regulators and investors. The divorce case could provide a rare window on the Ottos’ predominantly privately held companies, their business practices and their massive fortune. Lawyers for Carrie Otto, who filed for divorce in January in Miami-Dade, named nearly two dozen companies and two individuals as parties in the case. Her lawyers claimed it was necessary to name the entities and individuals because they control hidden marital assets. Otto was an investor in most of the companies. The divorce battle, over a marital estate with an estimated value of about $2 billion, is thought to be the largest divorce case ever in Miami-Dade. Carrie Otto, 33, an attorney who stopped practicing after marrying Alexander, grew up in Miami and owns a home in nearby Pinecrest. The couple has one child, a young boy. On Wednesday, in a ruling from the bench, Judge Hubbart dismissed the corporations and individuals, saying that they could not be included under Florida’s long-arm statute and that the companies were not alter egos of the German billionaire. Alexander Otto’s lawyers had argued that the various companies and individuals were not part of the case and should not have to disclose private financial information. “We believe that Judge Hubbart did the right thing,” said Donald J. Hayden, a partner at Baker & McKenzie in Miami who is co-counsel for Alexander Otto along with Cynthia L. Greene of Greene Smith & Associates. “Neither the alter ego theory nor long-arm statute applied in the case.” Under Florida’s long-arm statute, a citizen who lives in a jurisdiction outside the state can be drawn into a Florida case for actions that occurred here. When the alter ego theory is used, a party essentially contends that a person and a company are the same and that the person should not be allowed to hide behind the company — or vice versa — to avoid liability. After initially telling the judge on Wednesday that he would seek an appeal of the ruling regarding the third-party defendants, Miami solo practitioner Samuel I. Burstyn, who is representing Carrie Otto, later said in an interview that he would not seek an interlocutory appeal. Burstyn, who is co-counsel with Carrie along with A.J. Barranco of Barranco Kircher and Vogelsang in Miami said that he was no longer concerned about the funds being hidden after he took Alexander’s deposition earlier this month in Germany. “We are no longer worried about dissipation,” Burstyn said. “It is clear that he has way more than enough to satisfy a $700- to $900 million judgment against him. I don’t think we will divert resources for an appeal.” In March, Forbes magazine collectively ranked the Otto family as the 41st richest in the world, with $8 billion in assets. The German family controls Hamburg-based Otto GmbH & Co. Its holdings include mail order catalogs, real estate and retail operations around the world. The conglomerate is closely held; nearly all of its 89 companies in 21 countries are private. In the United States, the family controls catalog retailer Spiegel and has a controlling interest in retailer Crate & Barrel. The divorce proceeding, which requires public disclosure of the parties’ personal finances, threatens to reveal the financials of the Otto family’s private fortune. Alexander’s lawyers have fought to keep their client’s financial information from public view, as well as keeping the third parties from being named as defendants. On April 5, Hubbart temporarily prohibited the attorneys in the case from giving any financial information to people not directly involved in the case, particularly the news media. But at Wednesday’s hearing, Hubbart did not rule on the confidentiality matter, leaving attorneys to take different views on whether the April nondisclosure ruling was still in force. Burstyn claimed the order had expired, while Hayden said it was still in force because the judge has said nothing to the contrary. Carrie Otto, who received her law degree from Boston University, married Alexander Otto in 1994. She moved with her husband to Hamburg, where they had their primary residence. They also owned homes in Monaco and in South Florida. In her divorce, she is seeking to invalidate a prenuptial agreement, claiming that she signed the agreement under duress and false pretenses. In particular, she claims Alexander Otto lied about his true personal wealth when she signed the prenuptial.

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