Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ringling Brothers Owner Sued by Sister for $110M; Trial Begins Today

Ringling Brothers Sibling rivalry grew between Ken and Karen Feld in 1984 when their father, “The Greatest Showman on Earth,” Irvin Feld, died.  He left his entire estate, including the Ringling Brothers Circus, to Ken and nothing to Karen. The two fought it out in court, and Karen eventually received a portion of her father’s estate in a court settlement.

Relations between the two were not helped by Ken’s extreme efforts to keep himself and the family out of the public domain. At one point, he hired an ex-CIA spy to wreak havoc on author Janice Pottker who was writing a book about the Feld family history. The book would have revealed Irvin’s homosexuality, his wife’s suicide, and the court battles between the two siblings. Ken believed Karen was co-operating with Janice.

The two communicated through lawyers for years until their aunt Shirley died in 2007. Ken invited Karen to their aunt’s shiva at her apartment, which was meant to thaw relations. This meeting of the two ended with Karen in the hospital for emergency surgery on her knee and brain.

The two have different recollections of that day. Ken says that Karen was attempting to get into a bedroom where financial papers were stored when a guard interrupted her. She became enraged, yelling and throwing wine at the guard, which resulted in Karen being forcibly ejected and injured. Karen claims that she was visiting the bathroom when she was attacked by two bodyguards who beat and sexually assaulted her before throwing her out on the street.

Karen is suing Ken for $110 million, mainly for personal injury, and the trial is set to begin today, May 9th.

For more details about the 2007 fight and other fights between the siblings, see Nedra Pickler, Ringling Heirs to go to Trial Over Bereavement Fight, May 7, 2011; Guy Adams, A $110M Legal Circus as Ringling Brothers Owner is Sued by His Sister, The Independent, May 8, 2011.

For more information regarding the lawsuits between Charles Smith and Ken Feld and Janice Pottker and Ken Feld, including Ken’s attempts to ruin Pottker professionally and personally, see Jeff Stein, The Greatest Vendetta on Earth, Salon.com, Aug. 30, 2001; Jeff Stein, Send in the Clowns, Salon.com, Aug. 31, 2001.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2011/05/ringling-brothers-owner-sued-by-sister-for-110m-trial-begins-today.html

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