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What now, settlement or scorched-earth litigation in family spat?

Both son and dad are portrayed as being lawsuit-happy as they trade barbs in the wake of the latter’s recent divorce and even more recent loss of control in a major shakeup at one of Minnesota’s foremost private companies.

“He loves litigation,” says Michael Barry, business principal with Twin City Fan Companies, a hugely profitable entity founded by his father many decades ago.

Not so, says Charles Barry in the wake of a family vote that saw him tossed as chairman and CEO of his firm. Barry says that his son simply grew tired of waiting in the wings, and even confided to him once that he was “tired of being the prince.”

Well, a major upheaval is most decidedly on display now at Fan Companies, with dueling lawsuits pitting family members against each other in a matter with bottom-line consequences easily entailing many millions of dollars.

The gist of family members’ complaints against the senior Barry is this: They say — and they are supported in their claim by independent investigators — that dad owes the company over $21 million for non-business expenses he made on a woman he married last year in the immediate wake of a divorce ending his 55-year marriage. Money he doled out went to college tuition for her daughters, extensive use of a leased jet for scores of vacation trips, the purchase of a multi-million-dollar home and a virtual fleet of automobiles.

In response to that, and in his legal filing, Barry essentially says, “So what?” He contends that none of the outgoing funds equated to illegal expenditures, and he maintains that the family’s move against him is strictly a power play dictated by greed.

The Barry story, resting heavily on post-divorce complications heightened by a lavish amount of wealth (Fan Companies reportedly has annual sales of approximately $275 million), is singular of course, but we certainly believe it is relevant in a family law website and instructive to readers across the country, including in Massachusetts.

Its central bottom line: Outsized wealth concentrated in a family business can sometimes turn problematic when family relationships sour.

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