Roper Bros. bankruptcy sparks family lawsuit

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of a century-old lumberyard business in Petersburg, Va., has resulted in a legal battle between family members, according to an article in the Progress-Index.

Roper Bros. Lumber Co., which filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2009, is the subject of a lawsuit that claims a family trust was used to prop up the finances of the failing firm. Leroy Roper Jr., Gay Diz and Clair Roper Eads allege that their brother, Philip Roper III, improperly used money from trusts set up by their parents for all four siblings.

The Dec. 17 complaint, filed in Richmond Circuit Court, alleges that Philip Roper, who served as trustee of three family trusts, "transferred, or caused or allowed to be transferred, a substantial portion of the funds held in each trust for his own use and benefit," including transfers to the lumber company, of which he was the chairman, president and sole owner.

Two of the trusts are listed as unsecured creditors in bankruptcy court filings, with outstanding debts of $1.3 million.

A lawyer for Philip Roper released the following statement to the newspaper:

"The allegations are completely without merit. The funds in the trust are assets of Mary Clair C. Roper, who is very much alive and well, and she is extremely upset that her children have asserted this claim and does not understand why they would do this."

Roper Bros. Lumber ranked 72nd on the Home Channel News Top 350 Scoreboard in 2008, with $100 million in sales.

The company's Chapter 11 case is still proceeding in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond. The court in November approved Roper Brothers' plan to liquidate its remaining assets, which totaled $4.2 million at the end of November.

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