Chancery ruling offers insights into struggles of the Tigani beer empire

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A Chancery Court decision offers a glimpse into long-running family squabbles and financial struggles at a leading beer distributorship in Delaware.

“Few activities imperil familial harmony more than the transfer of generational wealth, as this intra-family dispute over trust instruments illustrates,” Vice-Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick wrote in a 62-page decision.

Defendant Robert F. (Bob) Tigani, Sr. was accused by the plaintiff’s (sons Robert, Jr., Christopher, and grandchildren) of breaching his fiduciary obligations as trustee of the “1986 Trust.”

The 1986 Trust holds stock in N.K.S. Distributors, a Delaware wholesaler of Anheuser-Busch InBev, Corona and other brands.

McCormick ruled that defendant Robert Tigani Sr. did not violate his fiduciary duties but did agree that money from the trust used to purchase an airplane and a Florida condominium should be returned.

A major issue was a 2012 transaction, with N.K.S. issuing stock in return for getting $2.5 million. McCormick rejected the argument that the transaction was “self-dealing,” adding that it was necessary because the “company was in dire straits” and needed the infusion as part of a refinancing.

The decision mentioned the struggles of the company under one of the plaintiffs, Christopher Tigani. Chris Tigani served as president of N.K.S. but was later removed from the post.

Robert Tigani, according to the ruling, used his personal resources in efforts to keep the distributorship afloat and retain the lucrative Anheuser-Busch franchise.

Chris Tigani was later sentenced to serve two years in federal prison for campaign finance violations. Last summer, he was the subject of a story on the Politico website on the FBI placing a “wire” on Tigani in investigating practices of an earlier campaign of now-President Joe Biden.

N.K.S. has been operated and majority-owned by the Tigani family since the early ’50s.

The company was later split in two, with the wine and spirits side becoming a separate entity under another family member.

(See ruling below)

Click to access tigani-post-trial-memorandum-opinion-final.pdf

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