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Wyoming Supreme Court Upholds Dismissal In Disney Heir Lawsuit

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A lawsuit filed by the grandson of Walt Disney over the disposition of land in Teton County should be decided in California, Wyoming’s Supreme Court has ruled.

The court on Wednesday turned down Brad Lund in his attempt to have a lawsuit over the sale of a plot of land known as Eagle South Fork Ranch near Wilson heard in Teton County.

Justices unanimously upheld a state district court’s ruling that justice would be better served if Lund’s challenge was heard in a California court rather than one in Wyoming.

“The district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the California court was an available and adequate alternate forum,” said the ruling written by Chief Justice Kate Fox.

The ruling is the latest in a long series of legal battles between Lund, his sister Michelle Lund and the trustees for both of the trusts maintained for the two.

Brad and Michelle Lund are the children of Sharon Disney-Lund, the daughter of Walt Disney.

Their father bought the 110-acre ranch and after their mother’s death, the ranch was placed in residuary trusts for the two children, with each trust owning 50% of the land.

According to the ruling, since 2009, Brad Lund and the trustees have been involved in a lawsuit in California probate court over numerous elements of the trust, including ways assets should be divided between the trusts of Brad and Michelle.

In 2019, trustees agreed to let Bradford buy his sister’s interest in the Eagle South Fork Ranch for $9.7 million rather than sell the land to an outside party.

In September 2020, the trustees announced they had received an offer of $35 million for the property, which they intended to accept. Michelle withdrew her consent to her brother’s purchase of the land.

Brad then filed a complaint against his sister and the trustees in state district court in Teton County, saying they breached the terms of an agreement for the purchase of the land.

The trustees and Michelle asked that the lawsuit be dismissed because all of the other legal actions surrounding the trusts were taking part in California.

The state district court granted the request and Brad challenged it to the Wyoming Supreme Court, saying the action involved a Wyoming property, so it made sense to hear the challenge in Wyoming.

But the Supreme Court which agreed it made more sense to pursue legal action in California because it was actually part of a larger probate case in that state.

“The California court has an extensive history with these parties and their trust disputes, and the district court reasonably concluded that the more efficient course was to have that court preside over this dispute as well,” the ruling said.

In addition, all of the parties, witnesses and evidence in the case are located outside of Wyoming, the ruling said.

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Wyoming Supreme Court To Hear Arguments In Disney Ranch Sale

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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.

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