An heir to the Mennen Co. speed-stick deodorant fortune should pay at least $97 million for mismanaging a family trust, a Delaware court official decided.
“It is undisputed that the trust, once valued at over $100 million, was reduced to a value closer to $25 million,” Delaware Chancery Court Master Abigail LeGrow wrote in her final report on trustee George “Jeff” Mennen. He “eschewed the interests of the beneficiaries in favor of subsidizing his self-aggrandized standing as a financier.”
Mennen, based in Morristown, New Jersey, was founded in 1878. A descendant, George S. Mennen, set up a trust in 1970, according to court papers. The company was sold to New York-based Colgate-Palmolive Co. in 1992 for $670 million.
In 2013, heirs including Kathryn Mennen, a granddaughter of George S. Mennen, sued her uncle, George “Jeff” Mennen, and Wilmington Trust Co., a unit of M&T Bank Corp. The parties later settled with the bank for undisclosed terms, according to court papers.
“According to Jeff, the 2008 market crash” reduced the trust’s value, but “Jeff cannot so easily lay his sins upon the head of a goat,” said LeGrow, whose decision is subject to approval by a chancery judge.
Kevin Abrams, a lawyer for the family members, declined to comment on the case. Jeffrey Cianciulli, a lawyer for George Mennen, didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail request for comment on the report.
The case is Mennen v. Wilmington Trust Co., CA8432, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).