Jones v. Jones

rtjonesjr_1200.jpgRees.jpgVanessa Blum reports on the lawsuit filed by Rees Jones against his beloved brother, Bobby (aka RTJ II).

It pits the two sons of famed golf course designer Robert Trent Jones in a messy court fight over $100,000 and the use of their deceased father's name.

 The men, both successful golf architects in their 60s, are known to be fierce competitors who conduct most of their communication through lawyers.

Now younger brother Rees Jones is suing older brother Robert Trent Jones Jr. for his share of taxes owed on the estate of their mother, who died in 1987. Rees Jones also claims Robert Jr. misappropriated their father's name when he contracted with a clothing firm to create a Robert Trent Jones apparel line.
A clothing line?
Still, that the brothers would go to court over a relatively modest sum of money is testament to how frayed their relationship has become. Even the language of the suit hints at a much larger family drama.

"This is a story about the eldest son of a famous golf course designer, who has selfishly taken advantage of his younger brother since their father's death through broken promises and clandestine conduct," states the complaint.
I have to stop here to get some tissues so I can weep for these two big grown ups!
Fort Lauderdale attorney Bruce Weihe, who represents Robert Trent Jones Jr., declined to comment on the specific allegations against his client.

"This is a private family matter and we hope for a quick resolution of the dispute," Weihe wrote in a brief statement.

Neither Robert Trent Jones Jr. nor Rees Jones could be reached for comment.

The lawsuit's first claim stems from the execution of their mother's will. According to the suit, Rees Jones paid $296,414 in deferred estate tax that came due in 2001. He asked his older brother for half, but Robert Trent Jones Jr. responded with a check for $49,338 -- leaving $98,869 outstanding, the suit alleges.In the second portion of the suit, Rees Jones demands half the royalties earned by his brother from a Robert Trent Jones clothing brand he developed with Gear for Sports in 2005.
Bradley Klein, who has tracked the brothers' careers as Golfweek's architecture editor, said Rees and Robert Jr., who goes by Bobby, probably began trying to one-up each other "in the crib."

"They hate each other," he said. "They are rivals in every way."
Klein said Robert Jr., more than Rees, has advanced his career by trading on his father's fame and their similar names.

"He's cashing in on the confusion," Klein said. "Now that his father is dead, the name has become even more famous."

According to government records, Robert Jr. trademarked the brands Robert Trent Jones Design and Robert Trent Jones Golf in addition to the Robert Trent Jones logo used by Gear for Sports after his father's death. Just because Robert Jr. has the same name as his father doesn't mean he can profit off it without giving his brother a cut, said Fort Lauderdale lawyer Matthew Nelles, who specializes in trademarks and intellectual property.

On the other hand, Nelles said, Rees Jones could have filed a formal objection when Robert Jr. trademarked the various brands.

"Robert Jr.'s going to say `I have the federally registered trademark giving me exclusive rights to use the name. I don't have to give you anything,''' Nelles said.

In his lawsuit, Rees Jones contends rights to the name passed equally to both sons under their father's will, and any profits should be divided between them.

The case has already drawn a flurry of combative exchanges between the brothers and their lawyers.

Robert Jr. tried to get the suit tossed out, claiming he was not presented with a copy of the complaint within 120 days as required by Florida law. In a sworn statement, the elder brother said court papers could have been provided to him when he crossed paths with Rees Jones at two golf events in spring 2006.

Kline, Rees Jones' attorney, said Robert Jr. evaded the individuals who came to serve him with the documents.

How tragic if these two masters were to spend their final days in court, giving their millions to lawyers instead of screwing up classic courses or building new banal ones!