He’s 87 and thinks he should control the oil kingdom he created. The story involves Denver oil tycoon Jack Grynberg who is in court trying to convince a judge his family owes him nearly $400 million for the lifetime of work he did building a billion-dollar empire for them.
Read the story from the Denver Post.
Denver oil tycoon Jack Grynberg is trying to convince an Arapahoe County district judge that the octogenarian’s family owes him as much as $400 million for the lifetime of work he’s done building a billion-dollar empire for them.
That’s because an Arapahoe County jury last week determined Grynberg never had a legitimate contract to run the companies he created, but had placed them in the names of his then-wife and three children and, as a result, they can fire him if they want to.
And they do.
In a lawsuit that’s dragged on for nearly three years,Grynberg’s ex-wife, Celeste, 83, and the couple’s three children – Rachel, 58, Stephen, 56, and Miriam, 54 – mounted what was essentially a hostile takeover of several companies they own but Grynberg operated without oversight for decades.
They asserted – and the jury agreed – that Grynberg never had a formal agreement with them to run the companies and that the 87-year-old’s advancing years are getting in his way of making good judgments that keep the operations profitable.
In his defense, Grynberg asserted the agreement was he could run the companies, most of which have copious investments in oil and gas reserves around the globe, until he died.
But he also said he’s done this without any formal salary. Now that he’s lost the first leg of the lawsuit, he claims he’s entitled to back-pay from his labors.
By his calculations, that’s around $400 million.
Lawyers for both sides of the case are precluded from discussing it publicly and much of the details remain hidden because of dozens of orders by District Judge Charles Pratt to seal thousands of pages of documents from the public.
The family has steadfastly protected its privacy, saying in court filings that are public that any of the inside details, if known, could seriously damage the Grynberg dynasty that is worth more than $1 billion.
The bulk of the case hinged on the family’s assertion that Grynberg wasn’t the Jack of old, the man who had frequently taken on the likes of BP, Conoco, Shell and a handful of other petroleum conglomerates and foreign governments around the globe with accusations of cheating and wrongdoing. It was through that prolific use of the courts that Grynberg, a brilliant graduate of the Colorado School of Mines and survivor of the Holocaust, pocketed a fortune and built an empire.
“In recent years, Jack’s increasingly questionable judgment and erratic decision-making have caused Jack’s wife and children mounting concern,” court papers filed by the family state. “Jack’s words … reveal a troubling absence of ethical business judgment …” and his reckless business decisions are merely personal whims that are costing them millions, the family said in the filings.
For example, during court testimony it was shown Grynberg is often the target of shysters with elaborate schemes targeting his money. One of them involved a fictitious Princess Esperanza of the House of Bourbon and Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Though the title Princess of the Two Sicilies actually exists and there are 19 living today, none is named Esperanza.
Another scheme involved claims of billions of dollars in returns for Romanian gold bonds issued in 1928. Testimony showed there were no such bonds and no returns to be expected.
Grynberg testified that he was not taken in by any of the schemes and lost no money on them.
“I expected to get $2 billion, but I never got a cent,” Grynberg testified. “I paid no money. I trusted them, but they never got a cent out of me.”
The battle has cost him his marriage – the couple divorced last year – and strained even further the already tenuous relationship he had with his children. Paperwork showed he was bitterly disappointed that his family would “scheme” to wrestle from him control of the companies he created with them in mind.
At the center of the dispute are three companies Grynberg created — Gadeco, Pricaspian and RSM — that manage his vast oil holdings, each owned by his children.
At one point during trial testimony, it was revealed that assets within just one of the companies make as much as $30 million each quarter, mostly in royalty payments that come from oil fields that stretch through countries as far off as Kazakhstan.
Even though Colorado law has a provision that entitles people over the age of 70 to an expedited trial, the case is expected to stretch at least another year or two, with appeals likely to be taken to the state’s highest courts.
The lawsuit alleged Grynberg had paid $600,000 to buy a home for his secretary, Candice Dee Smith, who asserts in her own Douglas County lawsuit that her former boss repeatedly forced her to have sex as a way of paying off the gesture. Three other female former employees came forward in Smith’s case with allegations Grynberg sexually harassed them. That lawsuit is pending.