Three members of the Roper family have filed suit against a fourth alleging mismanagement of family trust funds that allegedly were used without their permission to temporarily keep Roper Bros. Lumber Co. afloat before its final collapse.
Leroy B. Roper, Jr., Gay W. Diz, and Clair Roper Eades filed the suit against their brother, Philip Roper, III, after they said they had learned he had used more than $1.3 million of a trust fund set up in their family and mother's name on behalf of Roper Bros. Philip Roper was the chairman, president, and CEO of Roper Bros. Lumber. The Petersburg, Va., institution--the No. 53 company on the latest ProSales 100, based on its 2009 revenue of $51 million, and No. 40 on the previous year's list--filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2009 and never reopened.
According to court documents, the Mary Roper Trust was listed as an unsecured creditor of Roper Bros. in the amount of $1,055,559 and the Family Trust as an unsecured creditor in the amount of $272,275. Philip Roper was the trustee of the funds and also has power of attorney over his mother, Mary Clair C. Roper, who is still alive.
The defendants are seeking repayment of the funds and to have Philip Roper removed as trustee of the funds. They are also seeking payment of attorney fees and incurring expenses.
Court records indicate that a petition was filed by the defendants in July 2010 seeking information as to the use and information on the Trusts. When Philip Roper refused to comply with the petition his siblings filed suit. The petition is still pending and according to court records no hearing dates or times have been set.
An article in the Petersburg Progress-Index today said that Philip Roper has not been formally served with the lawsuit. The same article also said that Roper's attorney, William D. Bayliss, released a statement earlier this week in which he declared the allegations were "completely without merit."
"The funds in the trust are assets of Mary Clair C. Roper, who is very much alive and well, and she is extremely upset that her children have asserted this claim and does not understand why they would do this," the statement said.
Roper Bros. was founded in 1909 by Philip R. Roper, Sr., and eventually was taken over by his sons. Over the past decade, the company was led Philip Roper, III, who was credited with expanding the company to eventually include over 500 employees and annual revenue of $190 million. The company was hurt by the housing market recession that hit that year to the point where it declared bankruptcy in 2009. According to the Progress-Index article, the company is still proceeding with bankruptcy procedures.