We are working remotely and all of us continue to be available by telephone or email. In alignment with national, state and local initiatives as it relates to the coronavirus, we remain open for business and have changed the way we are working for the health and well-being of our employees, and you, our valued clients and colleagues. Read more

Mason & Helmers
We Welcome Your Call
  • Phone 651-323-2548
  • Toll Free 877-389-5533

Theater fights for share of founder's inheritance

Twin Cities stage show buffs may know that many community theaters rely on contributions beyond ticket sales to keep the curtains open. Following the death of its founder and primary benefactor, one community theater finds itself pursuing trust litigation as a matter of survival.

Gorilla Theater was founded by organic cosmetics entrepreneur Aubrey Harris. The entrepreneur established the theater as a private foundation, which limits its ability to raise funds from grant making organizations. As a result, the theater relied heavily on annual contributions from its founder. According to the complaint filed by the theater, the entrepreneur stated many times that he had made provisions for the theater in his estate plan.

The entrepreneur died last year and, according to the terms of a voting trust, half his interest in the cosmetics company was divided among his two children. Employees of the company, including the trustee of the voting trust, also hold company stock under the terms of the trust agreement.

According to the attorney representing the theater, the acting trustee amended the trust agreement after the entrepreneur's death and cut out any provisions for the theater. The theater's lawsuit questions the validity of the posthumous amendment to the trust agreement and seeks to force the trustee to give the theater its fair share of the inheritance left by its founder.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in support from the trust, but the President of the theater board says that they hope at least to fund a young actor's project that she describes as the founder's biggest legacy.

The trustee asserts that the theater has no interest in the voting trust, and therefore has no legal standing to sue the trust or company officers.

The theater's lawsuit may take some time to resolve. In the meantime, it has cut its production schedule nearly in half and has begun the process of converting into a tax-exempt nonprofit in order to become eligible for grant funding.

Source: The Tampa Bay Times, "Gorilla Theater's lawsuit fights founders' company for cash," John Fleming, Sept. 19, 2012

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

For Assistance with Estate Disputes & Other Matters, Contact Us

To learn more about the firm and how we can assist you,
contact Mason & Helmers in St. Paul, Minnesota. Call 651-323-2548 or 877-389-5533 (toll free) to set up an appointment.

*AV®, AV Preeminent®, Martindale-Hubbell Distinguished and Martindale-Hubbell Notable are certification marks used under license in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell® is the facilitator of a peer review
rating process. Ratings reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ fall into two categories — legal ability and general ethical standards.

Contact Our Attorneys

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Email Us For A Response
Mason & Helmers

Mason & Helmers
332 Minnesota Street
Suite W-3070
St. Paul, MN 55101

Toll Free: 877-389-5533
Phone: 651-323-2548
St. Paul Law Office Map