Jury Sides With Millionaire Businessman in High Society Lawsuit
HOUSTON (AP) _ The jury in a lawsuit that split one of Houston’s high-society families ruled in favor of a businessman accused by three nephews of running the family business into the ground while lining his own pockets.
The nephews had sought $7.5 million they said their uncle Robert Sakowitz stole and a penalty for allegedly breaching the family trust.
Sakowitz took over the family’s upscale clothing-store chain after his father, Bernard Sakowitz, died in 1981. The nephews, led by the eldest, Douglas Wyatt, 34, claimed he lost the family fortune by enriching himself.
Sakowitz, executor of his father’s will, countered that he only took money out of the business that he had put in earlier.
The business, Sakowitz Inc., failed last year.
The jury reached a verdict Wednesday after more than four hours of deliberations.
Juror Norman Fiddmont said the panel felt Sakowitz conducted the business ″above board and legally.″
Sakowitz, his wife, Laura, and mother, Ann, cried and hugged after the verdict was read.
″It’s so good to have ... the family name exonerated - to have my name exonerated,″ he said.
Wyatt said after the verdict: ″This has been a very difficult case for the whole family, on both sides. I feel like my brothers and I had to go forward and pursue what we believed in, what we thought was right.″
In 1986, Sakowitz, 52, settled a similar lawsuit brought by his brother-in- law, oilman Oscar Wyatt. That lawsuit split the family. Sakowitz’s mother sided with him. She and Sakowitz stopped speaking to his sister, Lynn Sakowitz Wyatt.
″I think that Lynn has sold her soul and her family for greed and power. I’m sorry to have to say it, but that’s the way I feel,″ Ann Sakowitz said.