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Holiday World family takes dispute to Court of Appeals

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An agreement meant to keep a popular amusement park in the family has sparked a bitter dispute that has reached the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Attorneys representing Koch family members presented oral arguments Aug. 6 before the appellate court in Koch Development Corp. and Daniel L. Koch v. Lori A. Koch, as personal representative to the estate of William A. Koch, Jr., deceased, 82A-4-1212-PL-612.

The Koch family owns Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari near Evansville. Will Koch, grandson of the park’s founder Louis J. Koch, was the majority owner in partnership with his brother Dan Koch, an attorney in Florida.

After Will Koch’s sudden death on June 13, 2010, Dan Koch was elected president of the business and took over operations.

Lori Koch, Will’s widow, and Dan Koch are fighting over the share price of the business under terms of a buy-sell agreement the brothers had. Both sides told the court that the purpose of the agreement was to keep Holiday World in the Koch family.

At the end of oral arguments, Judge John Baker said that from his point of view the situation looks as if this is a fractured family and there is probably nothing the courts can do.
   
The buy-sell agreement in place at the time of Will Koch’s death dictated the sale of their respective shares in the family business. In this situation, Koch Development Corp. had to purchase as much of the decedent’s shares as the capital of the company would lawfully permit while the remaining shares were to be purchased by the surviving shareholders.

KDC tendered an offer of $5 million and Dan Koch made a separate offer which brought the total amount to just under $27 million.

Lori Koch rejected both offers, claiming her husband’s shares were worth more than $32.5 million. She pointed to the brothers’ agreement in 2009 that the price per share was $653.07. Dan Koch and KDC countered that the shares were worth $541.93 each.

In January 2011, Lori Koch filed suit.

The trial court entered a judgment in favor of the estate. It found that KDC’s and Dan Koch’s actions materially breached the buy-sell agreement and concluded the estate was permanently excused from the obligation to sell its shares to KDC and Dan Koch.

On appeal, Dan Koch argued the trial court should be reversed. He claims he and KDC did not materially breach the agreement and that the trial court erred in excusing the estate from selling Will Koch’s shares.

During oral arguments, the appeals court judges questioned the attorneys about the specifics of the buy-sell agreement and the intent of that agreement. Jim Johnson, partner at Rudolph Fine Porter & Johnson LLP, represented KDC and Dan Koch. Terry Farmer, managing partner at Bamberger Foreman Oswald & Hahn LLP, represented Lori Koch.

Judge Paul Mathias raised the 180-day time limit included in the agreement and questioned Johnson as to why Dan Koch waited until the 178th day to tender an offer.

Johnson replied his client was practicing law in Florida and Will Koch’s death put him in an unexpected position of running the park.

Mathias countered that Dan Koch is an attorney. Issues do not always come when it is convenient for the attorney, he said. When Dan Koch stepped into the leadership role at Holiday World, he had an obligation to meet in 180 days.

The judges also queried Farmer about the price Lori Koch is arguing each share is worth. Farmer explained that was the price agreed upon by the shareholders on Jan. 1, 2009.

Baker asked, since he had bought a Buick in 1974 for $3,500, was the automaker obligated to sell him another car at the same price?

Farmer explained that every two years the shareholders set the pricing mechanism within the agreement. The price of $653.07 agreed upon in Jan. 2009 would govern.
 

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  1. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

  2. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  3. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

  4. The is putting restrictions on vaping just because big tobacco companies are losing money. http://vapingisthefuture.com

  5. Oh, and I should add ... the stigma JLAP attaches lasts forever. As my documents show, I had good reason to reject the many conflicted diagnoses for not thinking like the state wanted me to. BUT when I resisted and raised constitutional and even ADA "regarded as" arguments I was then denied licensed in Indiana for LIFE. As in until death does us part. Evidence in comments here: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/scotus-denies-cert-to-kansas-attorney-seeking-to-practice-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/40522 Resistance is futile, comrades.

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