Here they go again.
The billionaire Rollins family once again squared off in Georgia’s highest court Monday in a long-running battle over parts of the family empire that includes the Orkin pest control firm and other assets reportedly worth about $8 billion.
Since 2010, the Atlanta clan has sparred twice in the Georgia Supreme Court and twice in the state’s appeals court over whether a lawsuit filed by Rollins CEO Gary Rollins’ four children can go to jury trial. Meanwhile, the family has also battled in multiple civil and divorce lawsuits, slinging accusations of greed, lavish spending, bullying and sexual misconduct.
In 2010, the Rollins descendants accused their father and their uncle, Rollins Chairman Randall Rollins, of abusing control over a complex network of family trusts, partnerships and companies that control the assets, cutting off millions of dollars of income if the descendents didn’t meet a code of conduct.
In their lawsuit, the siblings accused the brothers of pulling $47 million from the family trusts and cutting off payments to them while awarding $9 million to Randall Rollins’ five children, who did not sue.
“What they were doing is controlling their families’ lives” through improperly modified partnerships and trusts, Lamar “Mickey” Mixson, lawyer for the Rollins siblings, told the justices Monday. “That is not a subject of legitimate business.”
After Monday’s hearing, Mixson said he is confident the justices will send the case back to Fulton Superior Court for a trial, even though the justices ruled against them in a tangle last year over the same case.
The case was initially dismissed by a Fulton Superior Court judge without a jury trial, setting off the series of decisions and appeals by higher courts.
James Lamberth, Gary and Randall Rollins’ lawyer, declined to comment.
In Monday’s hearing, in which each side got 20 minutes to make their case, justices peppered Lamberth with questions on how the family’s partnerships and trusts were changed, and whether a jury should hear the case.
Lamberth said the founder of the Rollins empire, O.Wayne Rollins, set up the complex structure of trusts decades ago to reduce taxes and ensure that the Rollins empire continued to thrive to support future generations of the family.
His sons Gary and Randall Rollins had “very broad authority” to make changes, Lamberth said, including setting up a code of conduct their children had to meet to receive money from the trusts.
“They are family entities to do things with family (issues) in mind,” Lamberth told the justices.
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