The Third District Court of Appeal on Wednesday gave the go-ahead to a probate settlement between the estate of millionaire businessman Victor Posner and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a federal corporation to which it owed employees’ pensions.
Posner left behind a $300 million estate when he died in 2002 at 83 in Miami, having built an industrial empire and a reputation for leading hostile takeovers. In 1985, Business Week labeled Posner the highest paid executive in the country, but he later served time in federal prison for tax evasion.
With Posner’s many businesses and properties came many employees, for whom he provided pension plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. But some of those pension obligations fell into question when Posner died and Brenda Nestor took over his estate.
Nestor, reportedly Posner’s girlfriend and business associate, was eventually ejected from the trust for allegedly running it into the ground. Court-appointed curator Philip J. von Kahle took over from Nestor in 2015 and retained Fort Lauderdale Akerman lawyer D. Brett Marks, who also represents Posner’s estate with Dale Noll and Richard C. Milstein of Akerman’s Miami office.
According to Marks, the probate estate owed more than $46 million to Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. and more than $8 million to the IRS, all of which built up while Nestor was personal representative.
Though it’s unlikely all that debt can be repaid, Marks said he’s happy with the Third DCA’s ruling as it allows his team to use some money from Posner’s probate estate to pay employees’ pensions through Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp.
Under the settlement, the estate’s obligations are capped at $32.25 million. Nestor had objected to the settlement, arguing it was not in the best interest of everyone involved.
The case comes with plenty of baggage as Nestor and Akerman spent years locking horns in court over Posner’s estate.
Nestor brought a malpractice lawsuit against Akerman in April over its work on Posner’s probate estate, which was dismissed. Von Kahle sued Nestor in 2016 over claims she breached her fiduciary duty by mismanaging Posner’s estate and ultimately recovered $12 million for creditors in that case. Nestor has also filed for personal bankruptcy.
“The personal attacks by Ms. Nestor asserted against my law firm, Akerman, and my client Phillip von Kahle were meritless, and we are pleased that all of the courts that have overseen her lawsuits against Akerman and Mr. von Kahle has rightfully dismissed each of those cases,” Marks said.
Posner’s probate estate has been an interesting one for Marks as his team inherited it once it was already insolvent, unable to pay its debts.
“It allowed us to use the different types of resources we had inside our firm to handle everything from probate issues, to real estate issues, to bankruptcy issues, to transactional, corporate and tax issues,” Marks said. “A case like this required multiple disciplines, and I think we were a good fit.”
Third DCA Chief Judge Leslie B. Rothenberg and judges Robert J. Luck and Kevin Emas sat on the judicial panel that issued the per curiam opinion, which sided with the trial court, dismissing Nestor’s appeal.
Read the full court order: