Chemical Banking Corp. and Bank of New York Co. are making 11th-hour bids to unseat U.S. Trust Corp. as executor of the $1.2 billion estate of tobacco heiress Doris Duke.
Both Chemical and Bank of New York are raising legal objections to the late Ms. Duke's April 1993 will, which named U.S. Trust and Ms. Duke's former butler, Bernard Lafferty, as co-executors. Chemical and Bank of New York had been named as co-executors separately in earlier versions of Ms. Duke's will.
Late last Thursday, Chemical persuaded a New York probate judge to hear its objections. The judge, Renee R. Roth of the state's Surrogate Court, set a hearing for Feb. 2. Bank of New York, meanwhile, filed a petition Friday seeking a Feb. 9 hearing; no decision had been made in that case as of press time.
Judge Roth refused, however, to block U.S. Trust from proceeding with a settlement, raising the possibility that the bank will try to beat the clock and wrap up the estate before either rival gets its day in court. U.S. Trust officials could not be reached for comment on their plans.
The pursuit of fiduciary duty, prestige, and profit all loom large in the battle over who should settle the huge estate.
Each of the three banks is asserting that it is best suited - indeed, obligated - to carry out the wishes of Ms. Duke, who died Oct. 28, 1993.
"The whole premise of the trust business is doing the right thing in a fiduciary capacity," said Amy J. Errett, chairman of Spectrem Group, a consulting firm in San Francisco. But, she added, "these large relationships are very important for investment management and fee income purposes, because you don't get a lot of them."
The latest legal developments came just two weeks after U.S. Trust won an eight-month battle for reinstatement as co-executor. U.S. Trust had been stripped of those duties last May by another Surrogate Court judge, Eve M. Preminger. Among other things, Judge Preminger had found that the bank had failed to police the expenditures of the butler, Mr. Lafferty, and had imprudently extended more than $800,000 in loans to him.
On Jan. 11, New York's high court overturned Judge Preminger's ruling on technical grounds, and ordered U.S. Trust reinstated pending a Surrogate Court hearing on the case. No hearing date has been set, but a preliminary conference is scheduled for Thursday.
Meanwhile, U.S. Trust has been hammering out a settlement under Judge Preminger's supervision. The agreement reportedly calls for Mr. Lafferty to resign as co-executor in exchange for a payment from U.S. Trust. The bank would not discuss the status of the matter.
Chemical is protesting the April 1993 will on the ground that Mr. Lafferty persuaded Ms. Duke to sever a long-standing relationship with the bank at time when she was not of sound mind. The bank had been named a fiduciary in several of Ms. Duke's wills dating back as far as 1987, and was named co-executor in a March 1991 codicil to a July 1987 will.
Bank of New York, meanwhile, is claiming that the court should rely on an April 1992 codicil, amending a November 1991 will, that named it as co- executor and co-trustee. The bank maintains that Ms. Duke clearly intended to replace Chemical with Bank of New York.
Chase Manhattan Corp.'s private banking arm has launched its first worldwide print advertising campaign.
Appearing in 12 publications, the campaign is expected to reach half of the world's multimillionaires an average of four times over the course of the year, Chase officials said.
The private bank already manages some $70 billion worldwide, so the aim of the advertising drive is to maintain visibility rather than attract new business. The bank doesn't expect "people jumping out of Barcaloungers, putting down the Dom Perignon, and sending us $5 million," said Mark D. Abrams, a Chase Manhattan senior vice president responsible for global marketing.
Ads are appearing in the U.S., European, and Asian editions of The Wall Street Journal and in the New York Times Magazine, The International Herald Tribune, and The South China Morning Post, among other publications.