A legal battle that has been percolating since 2009 when coffee magnate Leroy Hill died was settled Oct. 24 in Mobile County Circuit Court when a jury awarded Hill’s children $7.44 million. But the judge must still consider whether Hill’s children should also inherit his mansion in Grand Bay as well as his coffee company.
The jury found there was indeed a contract between Hill and his first wife Bonnie that promised the children would indeed inherit his business and farm in Grand Bay, and not his second wife Debbie Hill. The existence of such a contract has been at the center of the legal fight, with Debbie Hill’s attorneys arguing no such contract existed.
Leroy and Bonnie hill divorced in 1984 after nearly 30 years together, and she has claimed Leroy wrote up an agreement deeding the business and family farm to his children after his death. Later that agreement was typed up and kept in a fireproof safe in Hill’s office, according to Hill’s children.
Hill was remarried in 1986 to Debbie Preslar, who had been his secretary. She and Hill had also been having an affair prior to either of their divorces. Upon his death, Debbie Hill probated a will that left her with the business and properties and left Hill’s three sons just $250,000 each. His daughter received nothing in that will.
“We are very pleased with the jury’s determination that the contract (which was subsequently destroyed) existed, and we look forward to the next phase of this litigation to enforce Mr. Hill’s commitment, and we hope to have the Hill family celebrate Christmas on THEIR farm” said Vince Kilborn, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs.
Hill’s entire fortune is said to be worth at least $25 million and some estimates place the coffee company’s current value at $40 million.
Judge James Wood has scheduled a hearing in November pertaining to the plaintiffs’ other claims, which include a request for Debbie Hill to transfer both the farm and company to Hill’s children.
Debbie Hill’s attorney, Claude Boone, was not immediately available for comment.
For more background on the Hill story click here.
Updated at 9:59 p.m. Oct. 24 to clarify that the jury has not yet considered whether Hill’s children should inherit the business and farm.