The Royal Family

When Lee Tabas went public with a letter questioning his brother Robert’s leadership of the family bank in Narberth, he pulled back the veil on a real-life soap opera: a storied, wealthy Main Line family torn asunder by greed, backstabbing and gossip; a colorful patriarch who pitted son against son; and a trail of scandal and lawsuits that has almost everyone not talking to someone else. Meet the Tabases

When the estate brought in Price Waterhouse to dig through the financial records of Tabas Enterprises, the auditing firm found that while Dan used a lot of the family’s joint income for business, he also bought personal stuff for himself and his family “for which no business purpose exists.” Like panties. And prescriptions. And a heater for his pool. Tabas Enterprises paid for meals and other sundries for Dan while he was at his vacation homes, along with the airfare to fly him, his wife and his kids to those homes. It paid for gardeners, handymen and maids, including one for whom compensation was listed as a “travel and selling expense.” It paid for 24 cars, assigned to various members of his family. It also paid for gas, insurance, repairs, registrations and car phones for all 24 cars. On top of that, Tabas Enterprises paid Dan his annual management salary, and salaries to all of his children, who were largely “phantom” or “ghost” employees.

Yet in the tradition of Tabas Family weirdness, there were stranger claims, like Dan submitting a gas receipt for an expense reimbursement and then, two weeks later, submitting the carbon copy from that same receipt. He also submitted seven consecutively numbered cab receipts from the same New York City cab. He had petty cash reimburse him for a meal, only to then submit the same expense through his credit-card statement. Such thrift lends credence to the legendary tale of Dan nickel-and-diming a guy who worked on the decor at the Downingtown Inn. The guy then went to his car and came back with a gun and said, ‘‘You will pay the goddamned bill or you’re dead!” (Dan wrote out a check immediately.) Dan may not have inherited his father’s need to take care of his extended family, but he did inherit those Depression-era genes. He’d lived through it himself — watching his family lose everything. He worked 18-hour days. His kids might not all have had “real” jobs, but they’d worked hard growing up. Lee and Robert held just about every job that existed in the family businesses — waiter, porter, grass-cutter.

Dan managed his kids. Whenever one of them got married, Dan bought the newlyweds a “marital residence” that was as close as possible to his estate on Mulberry Lane in Haverford, known as Acorn Farm. Their bills were paid through the family office. Trusts were handed out like allowances; there were likely so many trusts that Dan’s kids probably never knew how much money they actually had. “They never bragged. They were never showy like that,” says a source who went to school with the Tabas kids at Harriton High. “But everyone knew.”

How could they not? There were several fountains on Dan Tabas’s front lawn. And statues. And an old Piper Swift airplane that his grandchildren played on. There was a plaque on his massive home on the Boardwalk in Ventnor that read “Founded by Dan and Evy Tabas,” along with not one, not two, but 12 (at least) sculptures in the front yard.  There was an enormous photo of Prince Charles in his office. “When he liked you, you were his greatest friend on earth,” says Trump. “And when he didn’t like you, you were in for a beating.”