Debra Turner and Conrad Prebys
In Superior Court May 17, Debra Turner, who lived with billionaire philanthropist Conrad Prebys for more than 16 years, sued the other board members of the Conrad Prebys Foundation. Turner is president of the foundation, which has not yet been funded. Conrad Prebys, who gave more than $300 million to San Diego nonprofits, died in July of last year. Conrad Prebys disinherited his son Eric in 2014, although Eric didn't know of the action until after the funeral.
Tribute to Conrad Prebys and Debra Turner from KPBS
Eric Prebys's lawyers negotiated a $9 million settlement for him, plus $6 million that would be owed to the Internal Revenue Service. In the suit and in an interview, she argues that the purpose of the foundation is to provide funds for San Diego's nonprofits and not to give money to individuals. She believes that the four other foundation members agreed to give money to Eric because it would protect their own interest in Conrad Prebys's trust. She charges them with breach of fiduciary duty and wants them removed from the foundation.
She contends that attorney James Lauth, who handled Conrad Prebys's trusts for many years, negotiated the tax-free settlement for Eric Prebys. Lauth, who did not return calls, is not named in the suit. That award was "wrong morally and legally," she told me, stating that she will get no money even if she wins the suit.
In the suit, Debra Turner claims that she is "effectively the Decedent's [Conrad Prebys's] widow." Eric Prebys, who is a noted physicist, told me, "I dispute that she is effectively my father's widow." Conrad Prebys had been married three times before beginning his liaison with Turner.
One of the prominent trustees who is sued is Laurie Anne Victoria, who is now chief executive officer of Progress Construction Company, a firm that was a major source of Conrad Prebys's wealth. "Laurie was my father's bulldog, most loyal and most trusted employee. The idea that she would act against his interest is ludicrous. Everything she did was to safeguard his reputation," Eric told me.
Supposedly, Conrad took umbrage over remarks Eric had made in conversations in 2014. He believes his father was sinking slowly into mental incompetency two years before his death. Debra Turner disputes that, claiming he did not evince dementia until shortly before his death.
Eric has come to believe that Debra Turner does not like him.