A Hard Look At An Ex Ceo's Hard Luck

ROBERT BUCKLEY, RICH OR broke? A judge is to decide this question Apr. 7 about the former chairman of Allegheny International. The company, since renamed Sunbeam-Oster, says Buckley is still loaded--and wants him to repay, with interest, a $2.9 million low-interest loan he took from it in 1980. Sunbeam-Oster claims he is hiding assets. Buckley denies it. The court will rule on whether Buckley's 1993 bankruptcy filing frees him from repaying.

Buckley, 71, has seen hard times since resigning under fire in 1986. He has had three strokes, and now, says his lawyer, Leslie Gern Cloyd, "he's confused about a great number of things." Still, she maintains Sunbeam owes Buckley more than Buckley owes Sunbeam. Her reasoning: The company stripped him of most benefits, and shouldn't have. He filed a claim for at least $6 million against Sunbeam, but another judge ruled against him in 1993. Gern Cloyd says he lacked the funds to appeal.

Buckley's task is to show how his net worth fell from an apparent $4.9 million to minus $2.2 million from 1989 to 1993. In court papers, his lawyer says the accountants who prepared his financial records exaggerated his wealth, overlooked asset sales he had made, and included his wife's property. The assets, she contends, have shriveled to his pension, worth a total of $776,000, and his $258,000 Vero Beach (Fla.) condo, both out of creditors' reach. Sold to pay legal and living costs, the papers say, are such items as a $100,000 Bentley.

Sunbeam argues that, even as he was filing bankruptcy, he paid big bills at places such as the Riomar Bay Yacht Club in Vero Beach, where he's a member. But, says his lawyer: "He doesn't have a yacht."

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