San Diego When beer magnate Pete Coors was pulled over in May by a Colorado cop for drunk driving, officials at UCSD probably weren't too sympathetic. Coors and his hard-partying siblings, heirs to the beer empire bearing their name, are said to be persona non grata around the seaside campus, thanks to a nasty legal run-in they had with the university over a deathbed bequest made by their dad, family patriarch Joe Coors Sr., a longtime resident of Rancho Santa Fe.
Coors Sr., who died in his sleep at his desert estate in Rancho Mirage in March 2003, had a reputation as a giver to ultraconservative political causes like the Heritage Foundation and the Mountain States Legal Foundation. The 85-year-old also was an early financial backer of Ronald Reagan's political career. Joe's elder brother Bill, no liberal himself, once called him "far right to Attila the Hun."
But Joe apparently had developed a soft spot for UCSD and in the weeks before his death agreed to donate 30,000 shares of stock in Adolph Coors Company to the UC San Diego Foundation. The stock never arrived, and in October 2003, the foundation filed a "creditor's claim for recovery" of the shares against Joe's sons Joseph Jr., Peter, and Jeff. In May 2004, according to a suit the foundation filed here in January of last year, the brothers rejected the claim.
The foundation argued in its court case that Joe's stock pledge "was part of a publicly announced fundraising campaign for the Cardio Vascular Center at the University of California-San Diego." Coors had been a university "trustee" and had taken "a leading role in the advancement of the Cardio Vascular Center," the complaint continued. "Using his position as Trustee, Decedent actively worked to gain commitments from potential donors," the suit said. "The subscription agreement Decedent signed on March 7, 2003, was to be a focal point of Cardiovascular Center's fundraising campaign. Decedent specifically requested that his subscription be used as part of this campaign.
"During Decedent's life, a dinner was planned for 700-800 potential donors. Decedent was to attend and be honored for his subscription at this event. The dinner took place on March 15, 2003, the day of Decedent's death. Decedent's subscription was announced to the potential donors." In its suit, the foundation maintained that "injustice can be avoided only by enforcing Decedent's promise in its entirety."
The Coors brothers never filed an answer, but the complaint was withdrawn by the foundation "with prejudice" -- meaning it cannot be refiled -- on April 26 of last year, indicating that an out-of-court settlement may have been reached. A university spokeswoman declined to comment.