Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Wealth and Drama of the Disney Family

DisneyBefore it was Walt Disney Studio, it was Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, founded by Walt Disney and his brother Roy O. Disney. Walt handled the creative side while Roy O. handled the business side. Walt died in 1966 of lung cancer, survived by his wife, two daughters and 10 grandchildren. Roy O. only had one child, Roy E., who would later become a senior executive for the company. Roy E. had four children - Susan, Roy P., Tim, and Abigail. Though the Disney clan raised their children in a way that was traditional and normal, their legacy is anything but simple.

In 1960, the Disney brothers owned 20% of the company that they had founded, but today the family only owns 3%. But at $130 billion, that would leave the family an investment of $3.9 billion in the company. And that of course does not include other holdings, investments, and endeavors. Some of the grandchildren became notorious, such as a granddaughter living quite lavishly, splurging on $5,000-a-night suites at the Royal Palms apartment homes in Las Vegas. Two other grandchildren fought over their portions to a trust fund, each arguing that the other was mentally incapacitated.

On the other side of the coin, a granddaughter of Roy O. was reportedly embarrassed by her family's wealth and stated that she had developed an "inferiority complex around people who have actually earned their money. She has said that if she could she would outlaw private jets, and she was one of 18 ultra-wealthy Americans to sign a letter asking presidential candidates to support a wealth tax in June 2019. Roy E. was the only heir that got involved in the business, and it is reported that though the original two brothers were close, the families have never been.

See Hillary Hoffower, A Family Feud Over a $400 Million Trust Fund, a Massive Fortune that Left One Heiress with an Inferiority Complex, and a Sprawling Media Empire. Meet the Disney Family, Business Insider, February 7, 2020.

Special thanks to Mark J. Bade (CPA, GCMA, St. Louis, Missouri) for bringing this article to my attention.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/trusts_estates_prof/2020/02/the-wealth-and-drama-of-the-disney-family.html

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