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Deal Made in Winston Diamond Estate

July 24, 2000

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) _ Twenty-two years after the death of diamond king Harry Winston and 12 years after his sons started suing each other, one of them accepted on Monday a $54 million buyout and gave up his claim on the family company.

The brothers sealed the deal in Surrogate’s Court in White Plains with a handshake, apparently their closest contact in years.

``For the first time after two decades, Harry Winston can rest in peace,″ said Kevin Plunkett, attorney for Ronald Winston, Harry’s older son.

Ronald Winston, 59, and an investment firm, Fenway Partners, are paying Bruce Winston $54.1 million for his share of the fabled company, which their father Harry started in the 1920s with $2,000 and an eye for precious stones.

Harry Winston prospered to the point where he could buy the Hope Diamond for $1 million, then donate it to the Smithsonian Institution. When Marilyn Monroe sang ``Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,″ it included the line, ``Talk to me, Harry Winston.″ Movie stars still borrow gems from Harry Winston Inc. for Oscar night.

Winston groomed his son Ronald to run the business, while Bruce dropped out of college and spent six years roaming Europe. In his will, Harry gave Ronald his inheritance outright, while Bruce’s would be parceled out by a trust. Ronald had control over the company and his brother’s holdings.

Unhappy with his income, Bruce Winston went to court, claiming Ronald was mismanaging things and demanding the company be sold so he could get his share. Ronald, insisting their father wanted more than anything else to keep the company in the family, offered $5 million, then $17 million, for his brother’s stake. Bruce refused, forcing Judge Albert Emanuelli to order a sale.

By partnering with Fenway, Ronald Winston, of Scarsdale, receives enough cash to buy out his brother while still holding onto the company, which has ``salons″ on Fifth Avenue and in Beverly Hills, Geneva, Paris and Tokyo. He will be president, chairman and a part owner, Plunkett said, and is delighted to be free of ``the stranglehold that litigation had on this company.″

As for Bruce Winston, 56, who lives in Katonah, attorney David Boies said, ``He and his family are well taken care of. He can do whatever he wants. He has $54 million and no longer has this litigation to worry about.″ His local attorney, Guy Parisi, said, ``Bruce is very happy to put this behind him. ... It’s more emotional than anything else.″

Emanuelli, who was thanked by both brothers for pushing the settlement, urged them to shake hands, saying that even if they do not leave as friends, they should think of their children and grandchildren. ``One day you may want to call upon each other,″ he said. ``It’s what your father would have wanted.″

Bruce stood and crossed the courtroom to Ronald, who stood to meet him. They shook hands and smiled briefly. The only jewelry in sight were wristwatches and Bruce’s wedding band.

``I’m glad we resolved it,″ Bruce said outside the courtroom. ``It brought us closer together after 12 years of litigation.″

Plunkett said earlier attempts at reconciliation _ and even handshakes _ had failed.

``Fights are always difficult, especially between brothers,″ said Boies. ``This settlement frees both brothers to get on with their lives.″

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