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Wife, Son Wage Legal Battle Over Irsay Estate

February 28, 1996

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ The wife and son of the ailing Robert Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, are waging a legal battle over control of Irsay’s estate, excluding the NFL franchise.

Both the wife, Nancy, and son, Jim, have filed petitions seeking guardianship over Irsay’s estate, contending he is incapacitated as the result of a massive stroke suffered Nov. 29.

Irsay’s doctors hold out little hope for his recovery.

The 72-year-old Robert Irsay ``is now mentally and physically disabled to the extent that he is not able to handle, care for or manage his affairs,″ his neurologist, Dr. Jeffery W. Hilburn, affirmed in a statement filed with Nancy Irsay’s petition.

``It is my opinion that Mr. Irsay’s condition will not improve in the foreseeable future,″ Hilburn’s statement concluded.

Irsay’s internist, Dr. Mitchell Pfeiffer, signed an identical statement.

``Mrs. Irsay doesn’t want to shake up the boat,″ her attorney, William E. Conour, said today. ``She just wants to keep watch over what’s going on until Mr. Irsay recovers.″

Jim Irsay’s petition, requesting the appointment of Colts’ legal counsel Michael G. Chernoff as the guardian, was filed last Thursday in Chicago. Nancy Irsay, who married Robert Irsay in 1989, filed her petition Feb. 6 in Noblesville at Hamilton Superior Court.

Legal guardianship gives the court-appointed guardian substantial control over the assets of an estate, empowering the guardian to make decisions about the purchase or sale of assets, and the spending of income.

``This has nothing to do with the football team,″ Mrs. Irsay told The Indianapolis Star. ``That is a separate entity being run by Jimmy, Chernoff and Bill Tobin. I think I have made it pretty clear since I have been married to Bob I don’t want anything to do with the team.

The approximate value of Robert Irsay’s personal estate is in excess of $10 million, according to Chicago court records, and the owner’s anticipated gross annual income is listed as $500,000.

The first hearing on the matter was scheduled for 2 p.m. today before Judge William J. Hughes in Hamilton County Superior Court.

Jim Irsay, represented in Indiana by Ice Miller Donadio & Ryan, has requested a stay pending a ruling on his petition, which is scheduled to be heard March 22.

Nancy Irsay contends she should be the guardian because she is the wife of the Colts’ owner.

``My concern is since Jan. 12, I have not been given any information I have requested pertaining to Bob’s assets outside of things pertaining to the Colts,″ she said. ``Since I am caring for him and working desperately to keep things going, I should have this information. Any wife would want to have the information. I don’t understand why I am not getting them.″

On Jan. 12, Nancy and Jim Irsay, with their attorneys, met in Chicago, where she asked Jim Irsay for more information concerning his father’s assets, other than the football team, Conour said. Jim Irsay and Chernoff did not provide any information, he said.

``If I knew what was happening, I wouldn’t be asking questions,″ Nancy Irsay said. ``I want to be a partner in the decisions being made or know why they are being made while Bob is recovering. We anticipate Bob’s recovery, possibly within a year, and I would hate to have him come back and find things have changed.″

Conour said, ``As the spouse, she has a natural right to be the guardian of the estate and take care of property matters that may arise during incapacitation. She wants accountability. Somebody has been making decisions since Nov. 29. Nancy doesn’t know what decisions have been made or who is making them.″

Despite the doctors’ statements, the health of the Colts’ owner is improving, according to his wife. ``He could be home in as soon as six weeks,″ she said. ``He is out of intensive care, is in physical therapy every day, and we anticipate him going to a rehab center.″

Jim Irsay, who serves as vice president and general manager of the Colts, has been in charge of the overall daily operation of the organization since his father suffered the stroke. He declined to comment on the matter.

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