Originally created 11/28/01

Lawsuits fly over singer's estate

COLBERT, Ga. - The tangled legal web surrounding country music star Kenny Rogers' Oglethorpe County estate continues to grow.

At a November 1999 auction, brothers James and Thomas Threatt submitted the high bid of $5.9 million for Beaverdam Farms, Mr. Rogers' 360-acre estate near Colbert.

Mr. Rogers, who is best-known for his hit single The Gambler, filed a lawsuit against the brothers in Jackson County alleging breach of contract when they didn't show up to close on the sale.

Mr. Rogers also sued the Threatts' attorney, George Butler, saying the attorney failed to hand over a good-faith check to the sale's closing attorney. The Threatt brothers gave the check to the closing attorney at the auction but later stopped payment and issued a new one to be temporarily held by Mr. Butler.

A Jackson County Superior Court judge has already issued an order dismissing Mr. Rogers' complaints against Mr. Butler.

The Threatts filed a countersuit accusing Mr. Rogers of fraud. They say Mr. Rogers removed items from the estate that they believed were to be included in the sale.

Mr. Butler said last week that the Threatts filed a new lawsuit earlier this month against Alabama-based National Auction Group, the company that auctioned the estate.

"The National Auction Group is responsible for virtually all of the problems Kenny Rogers would like to blame on the Threatts," Mr. Butler said.

Mr. Butler said the company failed to obtain a comprehensive list of items that were to be included in the sale of the estate.

"This is just not the way auctioning is done, especially at the multimillion-dollar level," Mr. Butler said. "We think the National Auction Group has a lot of explaining to do, and frankly, so does Kenny Rogers."

Mr. Butler said the Threatts and other investors who toured Beaverdam Farms were led to believe the estate would be sold furnished with everything they saw - except for Mr. Rogers' toothbrush and clothing. When the Threatts visited the estate days after the auction, a number of items had been removed, Mr. Butler said.

William R. Bone, the president of National Auction Group, said his company provided inventory listings to everyone involved.

"We had everything. Everyone knew what they were getting," Mr. Bone said.

He said the lawsuit - which is the first of its kind against the company - doesn't worry him.

"I could care less," Mr. Bone said. "It's two years late. It's just another diversion tactic. It's another smokescreen."

No hearing date has been set for the lawsuit.

Mr. Butler said his clients plan to file a motion for summary judgment in their favor in the original case within two weeks.

A summary judgment is granted based on the law and evidence presented by the party who makes the motion for summary judgment. If one is granted, a jury trial on the issue will be avoided, but a jury may still be used to determine the amount of damages to be awarded to whoever wins the summary judgment.

Meanwhile, Mr. Rogers remains at Beaverdam Farms.

"He's still there and quite happy," said Gerry Whitworth, Mr. Rogers' Realtor and friend.


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