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Judge troubled by King estate management, orders meeting

  • Story Highlights
  • 3 siblings are sole shareholders of corporation that manages their father's estate
  • Failure to comply with state code may result in dissolution of corporation, judge says
  • Shareholder meeting ordered, but decision-making CEO doesn't have to attend
  • Dexter King: Purpose of meeting would be to remove him as corporate president
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- A judge expressed serious concern Friday about the way the estate of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is being managed, and he warned the three surviving King children that they may lose control of it.

Dexter King opposes a meeting of shareholders of the corporation that manages his father's estate.

Dexter King opposes a meeting of shareholders of the corporation that manages his father's estate.

In an order, Judge Ural D. Glanville of Fulton County Superior Court wrote that "the court is extremely troubled about the governance" of the estate.

He added that as directors of the corporation that controls the late civil rights leader's estate, the three King children "have a duty to govern the corporation in compliance with the GCC [Georgia Corporation Code]. Moreover, the parties are warned that failure to comply with the GCC may result in dissolution of the corporation and the appointment of a receiver."

A corporation can be dissolved if the directors are deadlocked in the management of corporate affairs, if directors are taking illegal or fraudulent action, if assets are being wasted, or for other reasons, Glanville wrote.

In Glanville's order, he said the corporation must hold a shareholder meeting September 28. But he also wrote that Dexter King, who as president and CEO controls his father's estate, cannot be compelled to come -- and without him, no business could be done.

The order is the latest step in a lengthy legal battle that pits the Rev. Bernice King and Martin Luther King III against their brother, Dexter King. A fourth sibling, Yolanda King, died in 2007.

In 2008, Bernice King and Martin Luther King III filed a suit against their brother, accusing him of wrongfully taking money from their parents' estates.

Dexter King and the corporation filed a counterclaim, asking the court to force the other two siblings to turn over documents belonging to their parents.

In court earlier this week, lawyers for Dexter King and the corporation said they have repeatedly asked the siblings for previously unpublished love letters between Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King.

Lawyers for the estate corporation argued that Bernice King was trying to derail a book deal the estate was pursuing based on the letters.

The court ruled that the items requested -- which also included Martin Luther King Jr.'s Nobel Peace Prize -- must be turned over to the court until a resolution is reached.

The court is considering sanctions against Bernice King and Martin Luther King III in the matter.

The order Friday came in a legal tussle over scheduling a shareholder meeting.

Bernice King and Martin Luther King III wanted the court to require a shareholder meeting for the corporation. There has not been one since 2004.

Dexter King opposes such a meeting. "Defendants argue ... that the purpose of the meeting is to remove defendant Dexter S. King as the corporation's president," Glanville wrote in his order Friday.

The judge ruled that a meeting must take place -- but he added he does not have the authority to force Dexter King to show up.

Under the bylaws of the corporation, those representing 80 percent of the shares must be present for "the transaction of all business, except as otherwise proved by law," according to Glanville's order. Without Dexter King present, there would be no quorum, the judge wrote.

"Indeed, it appears that defendant Dexter S. King may circumvent the purpose of this order and deny the majority shareholders their right to a meaningful annual meeting," Glanville wrote.

Numerous "assertions, filings, and arguments" in the case "have contained unfavorable allegations" about all three siblings, Glanville wrote. In the end, he said, they could lose control of the estate.

The extensive legal wrangling among the siblings has also included disputes over the estate of their mother, who died in 2006. Bernice King is the administrator of Coretta Scott King's estate.

The courtroom battles have been a dramatic public change for a family that, until last year, made concerted efforts to express unity.

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