By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The attorneys for the grandson of Walt Disney will argue their case to block the sale of his family’s ranch in Teton County until his appeal of a lower court’s decision on the issue can be heard in front of the Wyoming Supreme Court on Wednesday.
The case involves Bradford Disney Lund’s appeal of a lower court’s decision in January to dismiss his lawsuit challenging the sale of the ranch near Wilson he owns with his sister. The ranch has been in the family since Lund’s father, William Lund, purchased it more than 40 years ago.
Jackson attorney Chris Hawks told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the legal team expected to hear a decision from the Wyoming Supreme Court within six months of the hearing, but that timeline could change.
“We’re arguing that Bradford Lund is one of the beneficial owners of the ranch,” Lund attorney Sandra Slaton told Cowboy State Daily. “He has a vested interest in that ranch. The trust legally owns the ranch, but the trustees are supposed to do what is in the beneficiary’s best interest.”
This appeal is the latest in Lund’s attempt to keep trustees from selling the 110-acre Eagle South Fork ranch near Wilson against his will.
The ranch has remained in residuary trusts for Lund and his sister following the death of their mother, Sharon Disney Lund.
“To keep the ranch means a lot to me,” Lund told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “It would be a very big loss for the family history to sell that ranch.”
The trustees include L. Andrew Gifford, Robert L. Wilson, Douglas Strode, and the financial trustee bank, the First Republic Trust Co.
Lund is challenging efforts by the trustees to sell the ranch to a third party, saying it would be a violation of his mother’s wishes that the ranch remain available for the use of her children.
Lund filed a lawsuit in state district court in Teton County to stop the trustees from selling the ranch and seeking a court order to make trustees comply with an earlier agreement to have the trust set up for Lund’s benefit pay $9.79 million to buy the half of the ranch held in the trust set up for his sister. The purchase would make Lund sole owner of the ranch.
The trustees then moved to dismiss the case to California instead of Wyoming because they claimed it was more convenient. The court granted that motion and dismissed the case.
Immediately after the decision was announced in January, the trustees announced they had an offer from a third party to buy the ranch. If the ranch is sold, the trustees will each get a 2% commission, nearly $700,000, from the sale.
Lund is appealing the state district court’s decision, saying the judge abused his discretion when it found that “the private- and public-interest factors strongly outweighed the deference owed to (Lund’s) choice of forum,” according to a brief filed with the Supreme Court.
In his appeal Lund insists that the decision on the sale of Eagle South Fork be determined by Wyomingites that are close to the property and understand its true value and worth.
The legal action is one of several involving Lund and the trustees. He is suing in California courts over their management of five separate trusts established for his benefit.