How Toronto’s lavishly rich Latner family is tearing itself apart | Toronto Life

How Toronto’s lavishly rich Latner family is tearing itself apart

How Toronto’s lavishly rich Latner family is tearing itself apart

Albert Latner made his fortune in real estate, health care and casinos, and lavished his four children with riches. After his wife died, he gave them their inheritance early. Now they’re feuding over the estate, launching lawsuit after lawsuit and tearing the family apart. A cautionary tale about the burdens of love and money

Latner vs. Latner

Joshua Latner

In February 2010, Joshua Latner was alerted by several friends about a photo posted on the Internet. He sat down at his computer, Googled himself and was disturbed to find his picture with the word “loser” scrawled across his face.

Joshua is not, and has never been, a man with a nine-to-five job. An enthusiastic collector of fine wines and rare antiques, he is 49 years old and lives in Zurich with his wife, Kendal, and their two young children. He also maintains residences in Toronto, Key Biscayne and Tokyo and on the Greek island of Mykonos, where he raises chickens and honeybees as a hobby. He inherited $150 million when his father, Albert Latner, a Toronto property developer and entrepreneur, decided to give each of his four children what’s known in high-net-worth circles as the velvet handshake—shorthand for early inheritance.

Joshua had his suspicions about who posted the photo. His lawyers obtained a court order to uncover the Internet service provider, which turned out to be Rogers. The communications giant was compelled, in turn, to produce the name of the subscriber. It was Steven Latner, Joshua’s older brother and former business partner.

Although the photo soon disappeared from the Internet, Joshua was not willing to let the matter drop. Like the rest of his family, he knows how to use lawyers to inflict pain and make a point. He launched a defamation suit against an as yet unidentified person, and had his lawyers bring a motion to examine his brother to discover if he was the perpetrator. Steven’s lawyer, Ronald Moldaver, contested the motion on the grounds that his client has approximately five computers in his house and other members of the family and house staff all had access to them.

Steven Latner

The presiding judge, Joan Haberman, wasn’t buying it. She ordered Steven to submit to a 90-minute cross-examination. Moldaver, without success, had asked the judge to recuse herself from the case, on the grounds that she had presided over another Latner vs. Latner case earlier that year. In that previous instance, Haberman had described the Latners as “extremely litigious” and expressed her disappointment that such an affluent family could not find better ways to spend their money. “Litigation is not a sport,” she said, “and should never be treated as such.”

Haberman had reason to complain. For the past half-decade, the Latner family has been enmeshed in a web of litigation that is dizzyingly complex. Claims concerning an old car, a coin collection, a hand-embroidered chuppah and paintings by Picasso have been launched. Most are still crawling through the courts, and the allegations of all parties remain unproven.

For the super rich, the civil court system offers the promise of a place where feuds and rivalries can be redressed and sorted out by justice professionals. The Latners’ fight is one that takes place in the tender spot in all families, where love and money intersect. It’s the story about what a once-humble family can lose in the process of becoming great.

The Latner name is more established in Ontario than those of many of the old WASP families of Rosedale. The family first came to Canada in the late 1800s, emigrating from eastern Europe. Albert was born in Hamilton in 1927 and later moved with his parents to Toronto, where they lived in a house on Major Street, near Kensington Market, then the city’s thriving Jewish enclave. Albert’s dad worked at Tip Top Tailors, and the family got by, but just.

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Albert’s empire would likely never have existed if it weren’t for his wife. Temmy Latner was raised near Dundas and Spadina, just a few blocks from her future husband. In the early 1930s, Arthur Weinstock, Temmy’s father, founded Delight Dress, a womenswear factory on Spadina Avenue, the heart of the garment district. Delight Dress boomed and he made a tidy profit, but in the ’50s business began to slow down and Arthur decided to try another line of work. He teamed up with his friend Lipa Green in a new real estate development company they called Greenwin Properties—a loose portmanteau of the co-owners’ names.

Temmy and Albert married in a small ceremony in June of 1949 at Shaarei Shomayim Synagogue, then on St. Clair West. Afterward, they drove to Miami for a budget honeymoon. Temmy quickly became pregnant, and Albert, a dutiful young man, dropped out of university to support his new family. His wealthy father-in-law set him up with a job on a Greenwin construction crew. Arthur mentored Albert in the business, helping him work his way up the ranks. With Lipa’s sons, Al and Harold Green, Albert would help grow Greenwin into a Toronto construction behemoth.

He picked an opportune moment to join the construction industry: mid-century Toronto was undergoing a massive expansion. Greenwin built much of Don Mills, one of the city’s first suburbs, as well as dozens of condominiums in the downtown and subsidized social housing complexes in the inner suburbs. All told, the company would erect more than 15,000 residential apartment units and over six million square feet of commercial space in the GTA, eventually expanding into developments across the country.

Michael Latner

The first of Albert and Temmy’s four children was Steven, born in 1950, a bright, gregarious boy with a love of books, followed swiftly by the diligent middle brother Michael, then Elise, the lone girl who, from the beginning, preferred the company of her mother to anyone else, and finally, after a gap of six years, Joshua. The family lived in a tiny, sparsely furnished house on Khedive Avenue near Bathurst and Wilson, but soon moved to a house in Don Mills—one of the first houses in the subdivision, it was surrounded by farmers’ fields. As Albert’s fortune grew, the family moved to bigger digs in swankier districts of the city: a modern split-level at Lawrence and Bathurst, a mock-Tudor mansion on Warren Road in Forest Hill, and eventually a sprawling farm in King City.

Elise Latner

Friends who were close to the Latners in those years describe a tight-knit household dominated by confident boys with healthy intellects and egos to match. Family dinners—particularly Friday night Shabbat—were a sacred ritual. Latner gatherings, according to one regular house guest, were “dominated by loud, liberal chat among the men that would escalate into an uncontrollable cacophony of excited expletives and arguments.” Temmy and Elise, by contrast, would retreat into the sitting room to knit and do needlepoint in peace.

Temmy was always cooking, sewing, knitting, sketching, ironing, decorating or doing needlepoint—when she wasn’t playing piano. As a girl, she studied under the legendary concert pianist Boris Berlin (he held a needle under her wrists while she played to keep them from sagging). Her favourite piece, Rachmaninov’s Prelude, no. 2 in C-sharp Minor, could often be heard throughout the house. “She was an incredibly gracious lady who made everyone around her feel good,” remembers Tsion Avital, a family friend who first met the Latners in 1972 while on a visit from Israel to research his PhD at U of T. One night, when he was ill, a pot of homemade chicken soup arrived at his apartment, delivered by Temmy’s chauffeur. Many years later, when Avital’s first son was born, Temmy, on a visit to Israel, presented him with a handmade quilt. “This is a woman who could have bought a million quilts,” he said, “but she chose to make one instead.”

Those who knew Albert and Temmy in their heyday describe their marriage as a great love affair, one that provided a bedrock for their children. Temmy was Albert’s best friend, the only person he fully confided in and trusted.

Albert was adamant that his children should have the opportunities he had missed out on as a young man. As his fortune grew, he encouraged the kids to travel and study abroad. Elise and Steven would both go on to university in the U.S. (the universities of Vermont and Pennsylvania, respectively). Elise would later continue her studies in Israel, where she would meet her future husband, Patrick Assaraf. At Oxford, Michael completed a law degree and Steven a graduate degree in literature, while Joshua was sent to Eton, the boarding school of choice for English aristocrats.

As the Latner empire grew, the family built social connections and amassed a collection of art by Picasso, Modigliani and Matisse

In 1979, Albert sold off the bulk of the family’s interest in Greenwin and created Shiplake, a management company with holdings in air cargo, health care, retirement communities and real estate. It soon became apparent that the company’s health care arm, Dynacare, was where the real growth was: the company branched out from retirement residences into medical laboratories and home health care. Albert took Dynacare public in the late ’90s and in 2002 sold it to the U.S. conglomerate LabCorp for $480 million.

The Latners leveraged the success of Dynacare to expand into, among other things, Ontario’s then-burgeoning gambling industry. Along with the Hyatt Group and a consortium of three other companies, the Latners opened Fallsview Casino Resort, an investment valued at $1 billion.

The Latner empire flourished, and the family amassed an impressive collection of fine art that included pieces by Picasso, Calder, Modigliani, Braque, Matisse, Dali and Moore. They also built a vast network of social and philanthropic connections. The Latners, like the Kimels, Cohons, Munks and Greens, had entered the exclusive club of Toronto’s prominent Jewish families.

Even after the siblings grew up and moved out, they’d meet for a standing Saturday evening dinner, often at upscale restaurants such as North 44° or Centro, close to the Eglinton Centre, a Greenwin development and home of the Shiplake head office. Elise, Michael, Steven and their families were usually there. Joshua as well, until he left for Europe.

As the youngest child, Joshua was more indulged than the others. Instead of attending university, he followed his bliss, travelling all over Europe and Asia, living for a few years in Japan. “My parents were always supportive,” Joshua told me in one of several emails from his home in Zurich. We communicated cordially over a period of months, during which he described his family history and childhood but declined to comment on matters before the court. “I think I was probably given more independence and freedom than my siblings. That’s not unusual for the youngest.”

Joshua became a wine and food connoisseur, building an impressive wine collection and touring the world’s Michelin-starred restaurants. He’d think nothing of spending $4,000 on wine at a single dinner. Wine Spectator called him one of the “super wine collectors of our time” and once described a meal he hosted at the Piedmont restaurant da Cesare, where the guest list included wine producers and rock stars sharing “bags full of white truffles and many bottles of ultra-fine wines.” The low point of the evening came when a rare magnum of 1945 Lafleur, worth several thousand dollars, was opened and declared corked. “Latner looked pretty pissed off…as though he had lost his best friend,” noted the writer, “but then he snapped out of it.”

At North 44°, Joshua Latner stripped down to his bare chest for kicks while eating dinner beside Ken and Marilyn Thomson

In Toronto, Joshua became friends with the nascent celebrity chef Mark McEwan and a fixture at his restaurant North 44°. When Joshua heard McEwan was having trouble paying his bills, he asked his father to co-sign a bank loan for $200,000. In exchange, McEwan offered the Latners free eating privileges until he paid it off. Stories of Joshua’s antics at the restaurant in the ’90s continue to circulate in Toronto. In one, Joshua stripped down to his bare chest for kicks while eating dinner beside the buttoned-down billionaire Ken Thomson and his wife Marilyn.

While Michael and Steven became more involved in the family business, Elise concentrated on raising her children with her husband, Patrick, a fashion importer and accomplished equestrian. In 1993, Temmy, who had previously undergone surgery for lung cancer, learned her cancer had metastasized. Temmy’s decline was swift; she died at home seven months later, surrounded by her family and Mount Sinai’s palliative care staff, a week short of her 63rd birthday. It was an experience that would inspire Albert to make a generous donation to Mount Sinai to build the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care.

With Temmy gone, a lost Albert turned to religion, attending synagogue more regularly. Ultimately, he found no satisfaction there. “He felt the rabbis were more interested in his money than his soul,” Avital recalls. Albert started dating, and at one point, he agreed to an undisclosed palimony settlement for Karen Levy, a younger American woman who complained he broke up with her via a lawyer’s letter.

After his wife died, Albert Latner lost interest in the family business. Making money didn’t seem important to him anymore

Avital remembers visiting Albert at the family farm in King City. They spent the day discussing the meaning of life, and Albert confided in his old friend that he’d lost interest in running the family business. Making money didn’t seem important to him anymore. “Sadness makes a person weak,” Avital says, “and Albert had become much weaker.”

Temmy and Albert had been careful to treat all of their children equally. In the ’80s, Albert purchased houses in Forest Hill for Steven and Michael and a house in Lytton Park for Elise. Albert later bought Joshua his own house in Forest Hill as well. Each of the siblings still owns these properties, and all but Joshua continue to live in them. Albert also bought each of his children a condo in the same oceanfront complex in Key Biscayne in southern Florida.

Temmy’s death prompted Albert to fret about his legacy. He divvied up his treasures and talked openly and often about changing his will, to favour whichever child he felt closest to at the time. Albert, like King Lear, was now the weakened patriarch, an anguished figure who exhibited his love—and diminishing power—through the transfer of property.

If it’s true that the rich are different from you and me, it’s even truer of the super rich. Even their problems are different.

Researchers at Boston College, in a study about the effects of being born rich, interviewed 165 families with average net worths of $78 million and found that as children of privilege grow up, they tend to either behave recklessly, because they do not fear life’s consequences, or avoid taking risks altogether, so comfortable are they in their bubble of wealth. The overwhelming concern of the parents in the study was how to pass on the family fortune without stoking bitter family feuds. In Canada, where the number of households with more than $30 million has grown to 17,000, such worries are increasingly common. The Barrick Gold founder Peter Munk has said he isn’t leaving any of his estimated $300-million fortune to his five kids; instead, he plans to donate it all to charities.

Munk, however, is the exception. Many wealthy families place their children’s inheritance in a trust, doling out parcels of cash linked to, and sometimes dependent upon, specific accomplishments—the completion of a university degree, say, or the establishment of a career or marriage. This strategy doesn’t always work, since making inheritance contingent on a set of goals can cause bitter intergenerational resentment. And, of course, children of privilege always know the money’s there anyway.

Sal LaSpada, the CEO of the international Institute for Philanthropy, which runs courses for families of high net worth on how to effectively use their fortunes for charitable endeavours, says parents who don’t treat their children equally pay the price down the road. “What’s fought over in the courts is not so much money but love,” he says. “If a young person feels deprived of love within the family context and feels someone else is receiving more than them, then the easy stage for it to play out on is financial and legal.”

When Albert broke free from Greenwin, he invoked an estate freeze on his assets. He transferred the majority of his fortune to his children’s respective companies in the form of common stock—an investment strategy intended to minimize taxes. However, he maintained control of each company until years later, when he chose to go into semi-retirement. At that point, each sibling received their $150 million. He also gave the art collection to his children (in legal documents, it’s referred to as the Children’s Joint Art), but he kept control of how it would be displayed and loaned out.

A business associate familiar with the deal was astonished that he allowed himself to become dependent on his children by giving almost all of his assets away. According to one close family friend and former business associate, when relations between his children frayed, Albert was simply unable to keep the conflict under control: “We’re not talking about normal people here.”

Around 2005, Steven and Michael took over the day-to-day operations of Shiplake. Joshua, who felt more at home in Europe and was determined to pursue his own business interests, sold his share of the family business to his siblings. Elise was still in Toronto but was no longer an active partner in Shiplake.

In 2006, according to sources close to the family, a rift opened up between the siblings over money Albert felt Shiplake owed him. Steven and Michael, as the controllers of the family business, were in one camp, and Joshua and Elise were in the other. They didn’t go to court over it; instead, each sibling eventually agreed to pay Albert a one-time settlement of $562,500, plus an annual consulting fee of $250,000.

In the early part of 2007, Albert decided to travel to Europe for an extended holiday with Joshua and his family. After living in Paris for a time, Joshua had settled in Zurich with Kendal and their two small children, Albert and Temmy. It was during this visit that Joshua confided to his father that he felt he’d been unfairly compensated when Michael and Steven bought him out of Shiplake. In February 2007, Albert wrote Joshua a promissory note for $1 million, allegedly as compensation and payable on demand. And then, a few months later, he transferred $13 million into Joshua’s account. In addition to the lump sum, Joshua claimed Albert exempted him from making the annual $250,000 consultation payment. He would later claim in court documents that Albert agreed he shouldn’t be required to make payments because he was supposedly still owed money from the Shiplake buyout.

The family’s court battles began in earnest in June of 2007, when Albert made Joshua the head of the Albert and Temmy Latner Family Foundation. According to Joshua, his father felt it would be a good thing for his youngest son, who was now out of the family business, to take responsibility for the Latners’ $25-million philanthropic arm. The foundation is responsible for several ambitious projects in Canada and abroad, including the Latner Family Wing of the University of Western Ontario law school, a student residence at St. Peter’s College, Oxford, and the Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma at Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem.

Joshua’s appointment to the position occurred at a board meeting in Toronto, which was attended by Albert, Elise, Joshua and a Shiplake executive acting as a proxy for Michael and Steven, who in protest chose not to show up. At the meeting, Joshua, Elise and Albert passed 13 motions, altering the governance and operation of the foundation, and appointed Joshua as CEO, Albert as president, Michael as secretary and Steven as treasurer.

The following month, the two older brothers filed a lawsuit against the foundation, Albert, Joshua, Elise and the foundation’s attorney, calling for, among other things, the immediate removal of Joshua as CEO. In a court document filed on July 18, 2007, Michael and Steven explained their reasons for opposing Joshua’s involvement: “Joshua is not capable of acting as chief executive officer of the foundation…Joshua has not had any involvement in the foundation since its inception, nor is he a member of the Toronto philanthropic community.” In a sworn affidavit, Michael went much further, accusing Joshua of manipulating their father: dictating when Albert ate his meals, exercised and slept, opening and reading all his correspondence, controlling all his telephone calls and pressuring him to change his will.

Michael Latner accused his brother of manipulating their father, intercepting his phone calls and pressuring him into changing his will

In the court documents, Michael describes how he felt his younger brother had wrested away his father’s love and attention. “Prior to Joshua’s return to Toronto in October 2006, I was extremely close to my father,” he said. “We shared everything with each other and visited for several hours each day….On more than one occasion, Albert advised me that he shared secrets with me that he has never shared with anyone else, including his other children, [his] close friends and his psychiatrist. Whenever Joshua announced that he was returning to Toronto for a visit, Albert advised Steven and me that we should avoid discussing any business with Joshua because it was Albert’s opinion that ‘everything deteriorates into a disaster’ when Joshua is involved. It is because of this and other, similar comments, combined with Joshua’s history of dysfunctional behavior, that I am shocked that Albert has moved to Europe and rearranged his whole life to live with Joshua.” He went on to describe his younger brother’s lack of education and professional experience, saying he “has never worked a day in his life” and “has never held any position of authority or responsibility, and as a result, has no managerial skills.” He noted Joshua’s “failure to follow the Jewish precepts of life, including marrying a woman who is not Jewish and naming his children after Albert (which is forbidden in the Jewish faith if the person is still alive).”

Joshua dismissed his brothers’ claims as false and accused them of harassing and abusing Albert. In his own defence, as evidence of his business smarts, Joshua submitted a 45-page brief he’d written in 2003 outlining his “modus operandi” for the family. He also submitted a 2005 email exchange between himself and Michael regarding a Swiss investment deal, to demonstrate that Michael once asked Joshua for business advice. Poignantly, both brothers signed their emails, “With love.”

During this fight, Albert continued to live with Joshua and Kendal, travelling with his grandchildren to Japan and Greece and enjoying his son’s company. One visitor to Joshua’s multi-million-dollar Mykonos holiday home described it as the best house on the exclusive island.

In the spring of 2008, Albert returned to Toronto to see his sister Pauline, who was being treated for cancer, and decided to stay. He moved in with Elise and began dating an old girlfriend. Those who know Albert well say it was difficult for him to be back in Toronto and at odds with his two older sons. Over the years, Steven and Michael had become fixtures in Toronto society and in the business world, attending charity functions and appearing regularly in the city’s social pages. Steven’s wife, Lynda, runs a vintage couture boutique at Holt Renfrew and is regarded as a local style icon. Their daughter, Yael, recently married Dan Kanter, who serves as a guitarist and music manager for Justin Bieber. Michael’s son Aaron, the first third-generation Latner to work at Shiplake, sits on the board of the Power Plant art gallery. As one friend of the family pointed out, “The Latners have tentacles everywhere.”

Albert eventually reunited with Steven and Michael, and he explained about the promissory note and the $13-million payment. From Steven and Michael’s point of view, Joshua had taken advantage of their father. With the support of his older sons, Albert embarked on an epic claim-filing spree. He sued Joshua, Kendal and Kendal’s father to get back a five-year-old Audi station wagon he’d given Kendal when she was pregnant with the couple’s first child. He also launched a suit against Joshua for the lost consultation payments. The following December, he filed yet another suit, against Joshua and the Swiss bank Clariden Leu AG, for the $13 million he had given Joshua, plus an additional $20 million in damages. One court document accuses Joshua of exercising “undue influence” and “poisoning Albert’s mind against his other sons.” It denies that there ever was any promissory note for $1 million or verbal agreement between father and son to “settle and extinguish mutual debts.” As for the $13 million, Albert claimed it was money he’d given to Joshua to invest and now he wanted it back—with interest.

Joshua rejected his father’s description of their payment arrangements and counterclaimed for damages of his own. When he produced the promissory note as evidence, Albert’s lawyers argued that, at the time, Albert did not know “the nature of the document; he had no independent legal or business advice; he was suffering from serious emotional trauma” due to his children’s “ongoing disputes, mostly between the Elise/Joshua camp on the one hand and the Steven/Michael camp on the other.”

Joshua changed the locks on his Forest Hill house after he heard that the family’s art curator had removed a Dali, a Matisse, a Modigliani and two Picassos. Albert, in turn, sued Joshua for damages under the Landlord-Tenant Act, claiming to be his tenant. (The case was dismissed in 2009.) Joshua counterclaimed that his father and the art curator had no right to remove the art without his permission.

Lily Latner, Steven’s daughter and a lawyer who was employed as general counsel to Shiplake at the time, swore in an affidavit that Albert “has a deep love for the family art” and that “it pains him deeply to have been separated from [it].” Joshua, in a responding affidavit, called Lily’s explanation absurd: “What has motivated my father to move the art from my house is simply the fact that he and I are currently fighting. He has done it either to, in his mind, exert pressure or exact vengeance….This is not new for my father. When last spring he was fighting with my brothers Michael and Steven, he threatened to remove the Children’s Joint Art from their homes as well.” The disputed art was eventually moved to a mutually agreed upon storage facility by the family’s staff curator.

Once the claims against Joshua started, Albert, who’d been living with Elise, relocated first to an apartment in a plush condo complex in Forest Hill and later to Steven’s house. He launched two lawsuits against his daughter. The first one, in January 2009, was for a collection of gold coins Elise claimed to have been given as a gift many years before. The second, filed in July of the same year, concerned a wedding chuppah—a traditional Jewish canopy—that Albert demanded be returned. Elise, in turn, launched a suit against Steven and Michael for $10 million she felt was owed to her by Shiplake, of which she was still a stakeholder.

The suit over the chuppah illustrates the tragedy at the centre of the Latner feud. Temmy Latner embroidered the chuppah 29 years ago, in anticipation of Elise’s wedding and return to Canada from Israel. When it was finished, she allegedly entrusted it to her daughter for safekeeping. Elise was to be the guardian of the chuppah, responsible for storing it safely and lending it out for family weddings. When Steven’s daughter Lily was married under it in 2007, sources close to Elise say her older brother refused to return it, until their father, who was then living with Joshua in Europe, insisted.

Given the animosity between the siblings, Elise worried that if she let Steven keep the chuppah, she and Joshua would never see it again. She suggested to her father and brother that an intermediary could take it—a trusted mutual friend who could lend it out to family members when appropriate. That didn’t work. After consulting with her children and her own conscience, Elise decided that her mother would not have approved of a fight over the chuppah. She complied with her father’s demand and sent the canopy to Steven. Despite the fact that Elise no longer has the chuppah, Albert has not dropped the suit against her.

A member of the extended family kindly offered to relay an interview request to Steven and Michael from me. The response I received was a letter from Ronald Moldaver, Shiplake’s counsel and a man whose name appears all over the stack of Latner court documents on my desk. The letter was written in a kind of hyper-aggressive legalese that surprised me, as it seemed an unnecessarily adversarial response to a straightforward interview request. It insisted that the affairs of the Latner family were “not in the public interest.” In an ominous parting shot, Moldaver wrote, “I suggest you retain legal counsel.”

What sets the Latners apart from other high-profile families recently embroiled in inheritance disputes, like the Astors of New York or the Hos of Hong Kong, is that the Latner children had already received their big payout. In dividing his estate, perhaps Albert believed he would be putting the sibling rivalries to rest. If this was the case, his strategy couldn’t have backfired more dramatically. As one family member put it to me, “Where does it all stop? When will this reassignment of wealth exhaust itself?”

Steven and Michael continue to control the family holding company. Joshua told me he was unsure if he was still legally CEO of the family trust. Elise remains one-third owner of Shiplake, but her name is not mentioned on the corporate website. Like Joshua, she has no contact with her brothers or her father, who is now 84 and lives with Steven and Lynda.

Most of the Latner lawsuits remain unresolved. Joshua has offered to settle with Steven on the “loser” defamation suit for the repayment of his legal fees and a donation to a Japanese earthquake relief fund. A couple of years ago, Avital attempted to orchestrate a reconciliation among Steven, Elise and Joshua. Only Elise and Joshua were open to the idea.

Many friends and family close to the warring siblings maintain that the disputes have nothing to do with money or material goods. The amounts in question, after all, are paltry given the net worth of the individuals involved. Here’s how one old friend of the Latner family summed up the situation: “The real story revolves around the characters themselves, their petty jealousies, deep-rooted anger over insults, both real and perceived, long simmering grudges and a father who, despite the success he achieved in the business world, proved unwilling or incapable of exercising his influence to moderate these inappropriate behaviors.” The friend added that he doesn’t see anyone backing down any time soon.

Albert, who was a close and involved grandfather just a few years ago, now has no relationship with Joshua’s or Elise’s children. Neither Joshua’s nor Elise’s family was invited to two large family weddings last year. Albert’s estranged grandchildren tracked down his cellphone number and left a message­—they claim the number was later disconnected.

This past December, Elise’s grown son Ely was staying at the family condo in Key Biscayne when he heard that his grandfather and his uncle Michael were having dinner at a nearby restaurant. According to a family friend, Ely decided to stop by in the hopes of seeing his grandfather. But when he arrived at the restaurant, Albert refused to acknowledge him.