The first wife and two sons of a hotel industry executive credited with helping Donald Trump avoid personal bankruptcy in the 1990s won a round in court Wednesday when a Los Angeles judge put on hold a petition by the man’s widow to transfer her late husband’s interest in two homes to his trust, of which she is one of the beneficiaries.
Barbara Bollenbach and her sons, Chris and Keat, had sought to have the petitioner, Kimberly Bollenbach, ordered to bring her claims involving the estate of Stephen Bollenbach in New York instead of Los Angeles. He was 74 years old when he died on Oct. 8, 2016, in New York City, after a lengthy illness.
The trio’s attorney, Jessica Uzcategui, said that in the alternative, Kimberly Bollenbach’s petition should be stayed pending the resolution of the New York litigation.
Bollenbach’s widow instead brought her petition in November in Los Angeles Superior Court. The two properties that are the subject of her case are located in Beverly Hills and Bel Air.
But according to the court papers filed by Uzcategui, there are already probate proceedings pending in New York that have been in progress for more than a year.
Attorney Andrew Smith, on behalf of Kimberly Bollenbach, said a New York court could not decide title to the properties since they are in California.
Judge Daniel Juarez agreed with Uzcategui’s alternative suggestion and imposed the stay. He set a status conference for Oct. 17.
Uzcategui declined to comment after the hearing. However, she said in court that the New York court has jurisdiction over Kimberly Bollenbach and that she should not be able to try and litigate her claims in two different states.
“Kimberly appears to have filed the California petition precisely to avoid the litigation in New York and minimize the potential allocation of estate assets to Barbara, Chris and Keat. She should not be permitted to engage in such forum-shopping,” Uzcategui’s court papers state.
In a sworn declaration, Barbara Bollenbach says that although she lives in California, she would consent to having Kimberly Bollenbach’s claims heard in New York along with the other related pending legal actions.
The beneficiaries of the Stephen Bollenbach trust are his widow, who is the trustee of his trust; his two sons and his two minor grandchildren, according to Kimberly Bollenbach’s petition.
Stephen and Kimberly Bollenbach married in 2011. His two sons were born during his previous marriage to Barbara Bollenbach, which ended in divorce in 2010.
He and his first wife agreed as part of their marital split that he would have a half-interest in both homes, but through inadvertence, the businessman “failed to take additional steps to formally transfer title to (the homes) to his trust,” his widow’s petition states.
Stephen Bollenbach, a graduate of UCLA and Cal State Northridge, was an executive with the Hilton Hotels Corp. from 1996 until 2007, when he retired. The Hilton Hotels company was sold that year to the Blackstone Group for $26 billion.
He previously oversaw the finances of several other companies, including the Trump Organization, which appointed him as its first CEO in 1990. According to the New York Times, he changed how Trump financed his various properties. Those measures, which included debt-for-equity swaps and the sale or planned bankruptcy of some of the Trump Organization’s flagging assets, were credited at that time with helping Trump avoid personal bankruptcy, according to the newspaper.