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Widow, trustees reach settlement in costly legal wrangle

February 7, 1997

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ The widow of Hugh Culverhouse reached a settlement Thursday with three trustees accused of cheating her from a portion of the $380 million estate left by the late Tampa Bay Bucs owner.

The agreement came three days after a judge began hearing the lawsuit, which made public details of the extramarital affairs and financial dealings of her husband, a tax lawyer who had owned the losing but profitable Bucs.

``I’m terribly glad that it’s over,″ Joy Culverhouse said after signing the agreement, which gives the trustees $3 million each to remove themselves from overseeing the Culverhouse estate.

Court testimony focused on the trustees’ management of the estate. But attention was focused on the case for months because of depositions that detailed three extramarital affairs Culverhouse allegedly had, including one with Susan Brinkley, wife of former broadcaster David Brinkley.

``I’d like to pull him out of the grave and shoot him with every bullet I could get,″ Joy Culverhouse told The Tampa Tribune last weekend. She said she didn’t know anything about the affairs, and details that emerged made her more determined to take control of the estate.

``I want to get those damn trustees out of there,″ she told the newspaper.

The case began a year ago, when Joy Culverhouse, 76, filed three lawsuits. The first accused lawyers Jack Donlan _ the former chief labor lawyer for the NFL _ Fred Cone and Steve Story of mishandling the trust and failing to pay her the income she should have received.

The trustees said they did their best to manage a complicated estate and argued the widow always received all income from the trust. Story testified that his skillful management helped bring the Culverhouse empire back from the brink of financial collapse.

The second suit accused Cone of malpractice, saying he tricked Joy Culverhouse into signing a post-nuptial agreement that greatly reduced her share of the family fortune. It gave her husband control of the couple’s money in exchange for $5 million and a condominium overlooking Bayshore Boulevard.

Joy Culverhouse said her husband and Cone advised her to sign it for tax reasons and because Culverhouse was on the brink of bankruptcy. A few months later, statements showed the worth of Culverhouse’s holdings actually had grown by $36.7 million.

She contended her husband created the trust and tricked her into signing the agreement because he planned to divorce her and remarry. Court depositions showed Culverhouse had talked to other women about marriage. His receptionist, Charlton Ford, said Culverhouse proposed to her and asked for her parents’ approval.

The third lawsuit accused Story of aiding and abetting Culverhouse in defrauding her. All three lawsuits were settled with Thursday’s agreement.

The settlement pays Joy Culverhouse $34 million and allows her to appoint her own trustees. Story will stay on as the trust manager. The agreement also arranges for millions of dollars to go to Tampa area charities, including the University of South Florida, a clinic that studies swallowing disorders and a breast cancer clinic.

Joy Culverhouse has said she wanted to make the donations because she stood by and watched for years as her husband gave money to charities, endowed academic chairs and made gifts to hospitals.

``I’m now able to give to the charities what I want, and I don’t have to get dead to give it,″ she said Thursday.

The Culverhouses had been married for 52 years when he died in August 1994 from lung cancer. Shortly after filing the lawsuits, Joy Culverhouse recalled her sacrifices as a star amateur golfer, when her husband was a publicity hungry lawyer in Jacksonville.

When Joy Culverhouse, twice the Alabama state golf champion and the winner of more than 200 tournaments, entered an event, she said Hugh Culverhouse would say, ``Just get my name in the paper.″

In the winner’s circle, she said, she was never ``Joy.″ She would tell reporters, ``I’m Mrs. Hugh Culverhouse, and my husband is a tax attorney.″

Of her husband’s purported affairs, Joy Culverhouse said, she was ``mad as hell″ that ``my money went for all these little escapades.″

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