MLK estate set for shakeup

Ajc: Superior Court Judge Ural Glanville has ordered King Inc. to revise the bylaws of the corporation that controls the estate of Martin Luther King Jr. in a way that will likely ensure that its president, Dexter King, no longer will control the corporation

The order issued Tuesday resulted from the final settlement of a lawsuit brought in 2008 against Dexter King by his siblings, Bernice King and Martin Luther King III. The siblings had accused their brother of mismanaging the family business — which controls the copyright of Martin Luther King Jr.’s writings and intellectual property — and profiting improperly.

Glanville ruled in December, when the the siblings agreed to settle their mutual lawsuits against one another by letting a temporary custodian run King Inc., that Dexter King had not behaved improperly.

The siblings, who were shareholders in the corporation, also complained that the corporate bylaws effectively stopped them from removing their brother from power because he refused to call a meeting that would allow them to put his stewardship to a vote.

Glanville’s new order, based on the analysis of court-appointed custodian Terry Giles, directed Giles to revise corporate governance documents “in accordance with best practices … including but not limited to job descriptions, policies and procedure manuals.”

The judge also ruled that Giles may negotiate a new employment agreement with Dexter King that documents the terms and conditions of his continued employment by King Inc., including payment of any money still owed to him by the corporation or any that he owes to the corporation. Giles can also negotiate the terms of his termination of such employment and a buyout of his shares.

The order also says Giles can negotiate any contracts or agreement that he believes are in the best interest of the corporation, including the movie deal that Dexter King had previously negotiated to be produced by Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks about the life of their father. The deal stalled because of opposition by Bernice King and Martin Luther King III.

Glanville ordered that the restructuring — during which he is to consult with the King siblings — be completed by May 28. The King siblings will still be able to challenge Giles’ recommendations to the court.

Giles is to receive a flat fee of $200,000 from the corporation as well as expenses.

The family squabble happened because of suspicions by Bernice King and Martin Luther King III that Dexter King was running the corporation in a way that unfairly benefited him and gave them little control over their father’s legacy, said Jock Smith, a lawyer for Bernice King and Martin Luther King III.

For instance, the $32 million sale of Martin Luther King Jr.’s paper to be housed at Morehouse College was a point of major contention because Dexter King argued that his commission — which Smith said was more than 30 percent — should be calculated on the gross figure rather than the net figure, which subtracted fees to the auction house and to another company involved in the deal. After all the payments were made, including the one to Dexter King, the three siblings divided the remainder of the $32 million, Smith said.

They also accused Dexter King of taking money out of the estate of Coretta Scott King, but Glanville’s ruling in December vindicated him.

“Dexter was an authorized signatory on that account and the funds that he removed were immediately distributed in three equal shares to the three shareholders of the Corporation, ” Glanville wrote. “There was no improper conduct with respect to the removal of funds. … Dexter did not misappropriate, convert, or steal any monies from Mrs. King’s estate.”

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