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Friday, January 06, 2012

Heiress Phyllis Fine Feuding With Daughter Susan Rollman: Lawsuit Alleges Six-Year Reign Of 'Greed and Egregious Self-Dealing'

Will Celeb Journalists Cover Case?
By James McNair
Bellwether contributor

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Of all the legal battles over money spilling into courtrooms, none have the grave-rumbling effects as those between family heirs. Such a conflict is playing out before Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Steve Martin. On one side is Phyllis Fine, the 83-year-old heiress and co-owner of Food Specialties Co. in Reading, along with her husband Ramond Fine and two of her adult daughters, Mindy Hastie and Tamara Fine. On the other side are Fine’s other daughter, Susan Rollman, and her husband Henry Rollman III, who in addition to being co-owners of Food Specialties are its principal officers.

At issue in the case filed in June 2011 (Case # A1104509) is, as Mrs. Fine puts it, “a more than six-year reign of fiduciary manipulation, greed and egregious self-dealing by (the Rollmans) in connection with a classic majority/control shareholder ‘squeeze-out’ of the (Fines), using techniques of excessive compensation and bonuses, vanishing dividends and other self-dealing.” The Rollmans say Mrs. Fine, as one of the company’s three directors (the Rollmans are the other two), approved all of the pay raises, bonuses and dividends and even initiated some. “At no time did Mrs. Fine vote against the motions,” they contend.

Food Specialties, known for its sauces, spreads and dressings, was founded more than 90 years ago by Mrs. Fine’s father, the late Louis Schulman. When he died in 1972, he divided the company’s shares between Mrs. Fine and her brother Mel. And after Mel died in 2003, his widow sold his half of the company to the Rollmans for $1 million, $400,000 of which, the suit claims, was “financed” with company money.

  Subsequent increases in compensation, perks and dividends led to “substantial losses” at Food Specialties from 2006 through 2010, the suit says. Moreover, Mrs. Fine claims that the Rollmans “cornered” her alone and pressured her to agree to give Susan Rollman another 25 percent stake upon the matriarch’s death. “I was deceived into doing whatever my daughter and her husband suggested,” she said in an affidavit. But after the other two daughters learned that Mrs. Fine had also signed away her posthumous voting rights to Susan Rollman last February, they demanded a look at the company’s financial records.

To Mrs. Fine, the last straw fell June 1 when the Rollmans voted to issue 4 more shares of stock, tipping the scales in their favor. That prompted Mrs. Fine to tell her lawyer, William Flynn of Strauss & Troy, to file suit nine days later. The Fines are asking that several of the stock deals be voided, that all excessive compensation be repaid, and that the Rollmans be banned from removing any company assets. They also want an injunction, a receiver to take control of the company, a full accounting and payment of punitive damages.

The Rollmans, who are represented by Eric Holzapfel of the Drew Law Firm, argue that Mrs. Fine “lacks standing” because she approved the actions she is now contesting. They say the other Fine family members lack standing because they don’t own stock. And they contend that any actions more than four years old can’t be challenged because of the statute of limitations.

If Judge Martin doesn’t dismiss the suit, it’s scheduled for trial this August.

[Ed. Note: The Rollman name might be considered legendary in Amberley Village, where the late Justin and Josephine Rollman helped found the village in 1940.  Josephine Rollman said she was a granddaughter of Archduke Ferdinand whose assassination in Sarajevo set off World War I in 1914.  She also was a niece of Sigmund Freud.  The history of Amberley Village contains this passage from a November 1987 interview with Josephine when she was in her 90's:

"I come from royalty.  My grandparents, the Archduke and the Duchess of Hapsburg in Austria, were shot and killed, and that was the beginning of World War I.  My mother was brought to this country as a little girl.  I was born in Detroit.  My father was a brother of Dr. Sigmund Freud's.  My full name is Josephine Freud Rollman. . . 
My cousin was a Lord Montbatten, who was shot and killed on his yacht.  And I'm distantly related to the Queen.  Well, all royalty is distantly related."]


  1. I'm not sure where Mr. McNair obtained his information, but there are many inaccuracies in his article. This article is completely slanted and doesn't take into account that there are always two sides to a story. Additionally, I've known all the parties involved in this suit for many years, and have never considered Mrs. Fine as "an heiress". Mr. McNair should check the history of Amberly Village. Justin and Josephine Rollman were not the founders; they were just residents of Amberly Village.

    1. not true is was at the dedication ceramony, justin is my grandfather so you areWRONG