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Hot dispute over Minnesota food magnate's $100 million trusts

Iron Range businessman Jeno Paulucci may be best known to Twin Cities readers by way of his legacy of popular food products. The Hibbing native earned his fortune through the success of brands including Chun King, Jeno's Pizza Rolls and Michelina's frozen meals. The nearly simultaneous death of the entrepreneur and his wife has led to an eight-month long dispute over the administration of family trusts valued at an estimated $100 million.

The entrepreneur and his wife established their trusts more than 12 years ago and originally named two Minneapolis attorneys to act as trustees. Just six weeks before their deaths, the couple amended their wills to appoint as trustees the former president of the entrepreneur's business corporation and a Florida attorney and state legislator. In the ongoing probate litigation, the children assert that the new trustees exercised undue influence at a time when their parents were no longer mentally competent to appoint new trustees.

As it stands, determining the appropriate venue for a ruling on the merits of the case continues to be a central issue. Most of the assets are located in the state of Florida along with a number of beneficiaries. The new trustees argue that it makes sense for litigation to take place there. However, the couple's children are fighting to keep the dispute in Minnesota.

Most recently, both sides presented their arguments about the venue to the state appellate court in Hennepin County. Whatever the court decides, the venue issue will probably face another round of appeal. It may be sometime next year before the parties begin to get to the merits of their cases.

Source: Star Tribune, "Jeno Paulucci money in nasty court dispute," Abby Simons, Oct. 20, 2012

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