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Not on board: Conrad Prebys's live-in lover

Debra Turner's step away from billionaire's foundation complicates lawsuit

Debra Turner and Conrad Prebys
Debra Turner and Conrad Prebys

The late real estate billionaire Conrad Prebys gave more than $300 million to San Diego nonprofits. Thus, the Prebys name is all over San Diego. Laurie Anne Victoria, his longtime second-in-command, was named trustee of the Conrad Prebys Foundation. In November, Debra Turner, Prebys's live-in lover for 16 years, did not put her name up for reelection to the foundation board, and hence is no longer an officer. This complicates a suit she earlier filed against boardmembers.

Eric and Conrad Prebys

Before he died last year, Conrad Prebys disinherited his son, Eric Prebys, a distinguished physicist. Eric, who didn't find out about it until after the funeral, hired lawyers and complained about his father's move, blaming it on cancer-related dementia. Eric also said that Debra Turner had used "undue influence" in getting the billionaire to disinherit the son.

The senior Prebys's estate-planning attorney said that if the younger Prebys were not given a reasonable settlement, he might win a suit that could drain significant assets from the foundation. So Eric Prebys got $9 million plus $6 million to cover taxes, a modest amount. (In contrast, Turner got $40 million, the couple's posh home, and other valuable items.)

Turner then sued Victoria and the other foundation boardmembers for self-dealing and other transgressions. Turner's suit was a "derivative suit," by which a shareholder of a corporation, for example, can bring suit against an officer or director on behalf of the corporation. At a court hearing December 8, Victoria's lawyers argued, among other things, that Turner — no longer on the board — could hardly bring a derivative suit against her former boardmembers. For a number of reasons, Turner does not have standing in this suit, says Victoria's law firm, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

"My attorneys said I only [had] to be on the board at the time I filed," says Turner.

The issue will be worked out at the next hearing on February 9th before San Diego Superior Court judge Julia Kelety. On December 8th, Kelety ruled that Turner cannot impose costs on others — she can't take discovery, demand documents, take depositions, and the like until the matter is taken up in February.

With a derivative suit pending, why did Turner not put her name up to remain on the board?

"The four members indicated clearly that [I] would not be on the foundation board," Turner says. The other members, who have been named in her suit, showed "clear and present hostility" toward her, she says. I pressed her whether any of the boardmembers actually told her she would not get reelected.

"They did not exactly put in those words — no," says Turner. "But they actually let me know — yes."

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Debra Turner and Conrad Prebys
Debra Turner and Conrad Prebys

The late real estate billionaire Conrad Prebys gave more than $300 million to San Diego nonprofits. Thus, the Prebys name is all over San Diego. Laurie Anne Victoria, his longtime second-in-command, was named trustee of the Conrad Prebys Foundation. In November, Debra Turner, Prebys's live-in lover for 16 years, did not put her name up for reelection to the foundation board, and hence is no longer an officer. This complicates a suit she earlier filed against boardmembers.

Eric and Conrad Prebys

Before he died last year, Conrad Prebys disinherited his son, Eric Prebys, a distinguished physicist. Eric, who didn't find out about it until after the funeral, hired lawyers and complained about his father's move, blaming it on cancer-related dementia. Eric also said that Debra Turner had used "undue influence" in getting the billionaire to disinherit the son.

The senior Prebys's estate-planning attorney said that if the younger Prebys were not given a reasonable settlement, he might win a suit that could drain significant assets from the foundation. So Eric Prebys got $9 million plus $6 million to cover taxes, a modest amount. (In contrast, Turner got $40 million, the couple's posh home, and other valuable items.)

Turner then sued Victoria and the other foundation boardmembers for self-dealing and other transgressions. Turner's suit was a "derivative suit," by which a shareholder of a corporation, for example, can bring suit against an officer or director on behalf of the corporation. At a court hearing December 8, Victoria's lawyers argued, among other things, that Turner — no longer on the board — could hardly bring a derivative suit against her former boardmembers. For a number of reasons, Turner does not have standing in this suit, says Victoria's law firm, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

"My attorneys said I only [had] to be on the board at the time I filed," says Turner.

The issue will be worked out at the next hearing on February 9th before San Diego Superior Court judge Julia Kelety. On December 8th, Kelety ruled that Turner cannot impose costs on others — she can't take discovery, demand documents, take depositions, and the like until the matter is taken up in February.

With a derivative suit pending, why did Turner not put her name up to remain on the board?

"The four members indicated clearly that [I] would not be on the foundation board," Turner says. The other members, who have been named in her suit, showed "clear and present hostility" toward her, she says. I pressed her whether any of the boardmembers actually told her she would not get reelected.

"They did not exactly put in those words — no," says Turner. "But they actually let me know — yes."

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Comments
27

Bye Felicia. Shoulda been grateful. Now she's gonna share hers with lotsa friendly bad legal advisors. She's old enough to know it. 'Twas curiosity that killed the cat.

Dec. 15, 2017

shirleyberan: It's true that legal fees could eat into that $40 million. And her attempt to oust the members of the board won't net her anything financially. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 15, 2017

Don - There's only one person who has so tyrannized my past that I still hold the wish to revenge-rake-over-the-coals. A recent decision for me is to forget-forgive the others. The angry flow of bad chemistry in my own body was toxic. I miss hero Susan Luzzaro deeply.

Dec. 16, 2017

shirleyberan: We all miss Susan. She was a terrific reporter and writer -- great combination. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 16, 2017

Stories like this always remind me of my ill-fated class-action lawsuit against Apple Computer. The Apple lawyer, one Bill Fenweck of Fenweck & West told me... "It's not about the merits of the case, it's about attrition. You do know what attrition is don't you? Well in legal engagement it means something like this. You file a complaint, we respond. You spend $100 and we spend $1000. Whoever runs out of money first, loses."

Dec. 16, 2017

Ponzi: That is a great and meaningful story. Of course that is how the law works. Money wins. How do you think the Congress is willing to pass a tax law that 60 percent of the people oppose? It's because the big corporations and wealthiest individuals win and the middle class loses. The Republicans are paying off their donors.

Incidentally, news has come out on why Sen. Corker changed his vote to favor the tax bill. They wrote in a special provision that nets him millions of dollars. I will post info on it in the post below. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 18, 2017

From the movie, "A Civil Action" (1999).

“Out of the 780,000 cases filed each year, only 12,000, or 1½ percent, ever reach a verdict. The whole idea of lawsuits is to settle – to compel the other side to settle. And you do that by spending more money than you should, which forces them to spend more money than they should. And whoever comes to their senses first – loses.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvS9nRZluvo

Dec. 26, 2017

Ah the joys of love and money.

Dec. 17, 2017

AlexClarke: Here is the piece that I told Ponzi I would post under your comment.

http://www.boomantribune.com/story/2017/12/18/124544/47

Corker is just another Congressional crook. As you say, "Ah, the joys of love and money." Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 18, 2017

Yes. Maybe it's to avenge the death of Conrad.

Dec. 17, 2017

shirleyberan: Actually, Debra shouldn't get money if she wins the suit. The purpose of the foundation is helping non-profits. However, she clearly wants control of the foundation and there may be another angle we haven't figured yet. She is getting $40 million-plus. She should be happy. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 18, 2017

Debra Turner must love money. What she was bequeathed was not enough. In all her years, who did she love? Conrad or his money? When the dirt has covered the coffin, the true motives emerge. A true lover, in my opinion, would be happy for the life they shared and good times, and certainly be happy with the millions she was left. But she wants more, even at the expense of a rightful heir. Greed or someone losing their mind?

Dec. 17, 2017

Greed.

Dec. 18, 2017

AlexClarke: Prebys had three wives before he began living with Debra. The first one divorced him because he was such a heavy drinker. That was when he ran a pizza parlor in South Bend, Indiana. One of the other two got a massive settlement, according to my sources. Debra surely comes out extremely well. Is she pursuing this suit because she hates Eric Prebys, the senior Prebys's son? Some think so. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 18, 2017

Ponzi: Again, on the surface, she gets no money if she wins the suit. She will deprive the senior Prebys's son of his $9 million plus $6 million to cover taxes. And, we don't know how the foundation might change once she gets control, if she wins. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 18, 2017

They believe they deserve more and more than anybody else. #CorkerKickback, what about #WhoDebraDoNext ? Sexist? Silly, Sorry.

Dec. 18, 2017

shirleyberan: Sexism? Do you think Prebys senior's son deserved nothing because he is a male? Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 18, 2017

Debra Turner should remember the old adage: "a fool and his/her money is soon parted"...

Dec. 18, 2017

SportsFan0000: When I first heard the adage, there was no use of the word "her." I assume that was because except in certain instances, men controlled all the money in those days. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 18, 2017

Lawyers will gladly run the meter and spend away that 40M.... They will call Debra "The Cha Ching" lady in the law offices...lol!

Dec. 18, 2017

SportsFan0000: She has one prestigious law firm and just hired a prominent San Diego lawyer. Somebody should warn her about the truth you state: Debra may be called "The Cha Ching" lady in the law offices. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 18, 2017

Don, thank you for reporting these interesting stories. In this matter it’s sad that it has become a public spectacle and dragging with it the good name Conrad Prebys. There’s no doubt how generous he was with his fortune when he had capacity. I know that most people realize this is a sideshow of greed and should not distract the community from recognizing the charitable efforts and selflessness of Mr. Prebys.

Dec. 18, 2017

Ponzi: The Reader broke the story last May, and has continued to follow it. So if anyone gets the blame for making it a public spectacle, I get it. I agree, and have said it in print: the senior Prebys was one of San Diego's most generous philanthropists. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 19, 2017

Don, it would not be a story if a feud fueled by greed had not made it newsworthy. You didn’t start the fire.

Dec. 19, 2017

Ponzi: You mean I just threw gasoline on it? Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 20, 2017

If the public did not want to know this info, then they would not read it and comment on it. It involves the family of a prominent San Diegan, now deceased. It is certainly considered news. Glad that we have grown from the old SD UT days (Copley Era)..when embarrassing things that were newsworthy were swept under the rug to cover up for high society and their hi-jinks effecting all San Diegans..

Dec. 20, 2017

SportsFan0000: Even the U-T ran the Prebys story, on page one, and lengthy. It ran four or five months after the Reader had broken the story and had continued following it. By the time the U-T ran its piece, the Reader had run four long items on it. Best, Don Bauder

Dec. 20, 2017

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