Originally created 11/05/01

Family feud over stores enters court



AIKEN - A sibling rivalry inside the family that controls the Bryant's Convenience Store chain will go before a judge today.

In December, Jasper Marvin "Trey" Bryant III filed a lawsuit in Aiken County. In the suit, Mr. Bryant laid out what he said was a systematic power grab of the family business by his brother Edward Oliver Bryant.

Today, Edward Bryant's lawyer will ask a judge to dismiss the lawsuit. His side of the family argues the statute of limitations - the legal deadline for such a lawsuit - has passed. They deny every aspect of Trey Bryant's case.

Trey Bryant's wife, Barbara, is now the plaintiff in the action because her husband died earlier this year.

Her side of the family contends the statute of limitations did not begin when the business started but when Trey Bryant began to suspect mismanagement of the business. When that happened is unclear.

Edward, Trey and their father, Jasper Marvin Bryant Jr., started a small grocery store in Langley in the 1970s.

The family now owns 13 locations that include convenience stores and a video store. Over the years, the business was divided into three corporations.

Trey Bryant is an original shareholder in Bryant's Valley Food Markets Inc. Edward Bryant was the registered agent, but the corporation was dissolved in 1997. Trey Bryant said the action was taken because his brother did not file a tax return that year.

A second corporation, called Bryant's Convenience Stores Inc., was registered to Joel Bryant, Edward's son, in 1999. A third corporation, Bryant's Video Oasis Inc., is registered to Lisa T. Bryant, Joel's wife.

Trey Bryant says in his lawsuit that his brother put some of the business into Joel's hands without his permission and that a fourth corporation, Bryant's Food & Fuel Stores Inc., has been started by his brother. No record of that corporation exists with the secretary of state in Georgia or South Carolina.

The lawsuit contends the complexity of the family business put Trey Bryant at a disadvantage. Because he did not have a college degree and his brother has a business degree, the family gave Edward Bryant "great deference in handling the financial affairs of the family business."

That position, Trey Bryant argued, allowed Edward Bryant to keep money from his brother and ultimately cut off his brother from benefits from the business.

Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or mboedy@augusta.com

What's next:

The dispute over Bryant's Convenience Store chain will head to Common Pleas Court in Aiken County today.