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


Last fall, a letter flew out over a public relations newswire. A shareholder in Narberth’s Royal Bancshares of Pennsylvania had written the missive to its board, expressing his dismay over recent announcements, including the promotion of several senior management guys to even more senior positions.

Rewarding the very people who’d been responsible for “heading the bank in the wrong direction,” the shareholder wrote, was “not the best thing for the company.” Royal Bancshares stock would lose around 70 percent of its value in 2008, and the bank was about to report $38.1 million in losses — with the economy spiraling still further into the tank. The writer asked the bank to “permit more talented and better-qualified individuals to assume some senior roles.”

Here’s where it got weird.

The guy who wrote the letter? Lee Tabas.

One of the guys Lee suggested wasn’t talented or qualified enough to be in charge? Robert Tabas — his little brother.


This wasn’t simply a private spat between two brothers in a high-society Philadelphia family, duked out in the foyer of one of their imposing Main Line manses. Instead, Lee Tabas announced it to the world.

Yet the weirdest part may be that to people who know the Tabas family, it wasn’t weird at all. In public, the family always seemed very nice and respectful to each other. But it was apparently another story behind the scenes. “The whole family was very manipulative,” says someone who worked with the clan. (Sometimes, the stories got out, as when sister Susan was arrested for assaulting a nanny. Twice.)

And, so, as it says on the website of the Tabas-owned Royal Bank: “Welcome to the Royal Family.”

It’s the family whose legendary patriarchs — brothers Daniel and Charles Tabas — built Downingtown from the dirt up. The one whose business executives grin under 10-gallon hats on its “Loan Rangers” billboard along the Schuylkill. The one that’s given so much to Wills Eye Hospital that a building got named for it. The one that started the famed Riverfront and City Line dinner theaters, which brought stars like Cesar Romero and Joe Namath to the Philadelphia stage, and that ran the Downingtown Inn, and the Downingtown Farmers Market, and the Twelve Caesars on City Avenue, and Mickey Rooney’s Tabas Hotel, where the round, speckled face of Mickey Rooney, tacked to the building, lured people off Route 30.

The letter from Lee Tabas, Daniel’s son, proved one thing: The Tabas patriarchs didn’t just pass down their immense wealth to their collective nine children. They also passed down their rivalry.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10Next >View as One Page

Around The Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • stephanie

    Good dirt and reading!

  • Barton

    During my childhood, in the late 40's and early 50's, I lived a few doors from "Uncle Charles" and Aunt Harriet and their son, Andy, and I would occassionally visit at them at their home where we would pop popcorn. They are really nice people.

  • Anne

    Ok , every family has it’s dirt or secrets
    Just cause these are smart and part of the ” chosen people ” who have brains and business smarts and happen to have made successes of themselves all you other jealous creeps need to get a life and stop using this family and other Main Line families as scapegoats. Get a life and work hard like the Tabas’ did to build their empire instead of looking for juicy stories like insecure leeches . This is one dignified family . They are not selfish but selfless and it is time to thank them for all charitable work that has enhanced the quality of life of the Main Line , Philadelphia , Adath Israel ,and so on and so on
    instead of bashing them

  • Bob

    Certainly some take pleasure in sniping at the rich, and no doubt there is an element of antisemitism at work, too. But this story is factual. I worked for the Tabas family and was privy to much. To put it politely, Daniel Tabas was not a very nice man. Yes, he worked hard, but he was also cruel, greedy, and heartless, a caricature of the money-grubbing Jew, unlike the vast majority of our people. Yes, he gave millions to good causes, but not because he gave a damn about anyone other than himself and his direct descendants but rather to buy respectability. He was a bully who treated his managers badly. He lined his immediate family’s pockets by putting everyone on the payroll of businesses that they never stuck their noses into, while paying employees sub-standard wages. He made a lot of people’s lives miserable. Dignified? That’s laughable.
    The previous comment attempts to write off any criticism of Daniel Tabas as jealousy. I think not. The evidence is overwhelming. And I

  • Bob

    (It says 200 word max, why cut me off at 175? To continue . . .) The evidence is overwhelming. And I can’t think of anyone less deserving of jealousy than he; he may have had millions, but my impression of him was he was a very unhappy man.

  • Anne

    There are lots of disgruntled employees and the greatest TV episodes are based around so many of these stories . Since you are not coming forth to reveal your identity Mr Bob , I think you’re full of it . I happen to know alot of this history and my family performed acts of kindness with theirs. The women of this family are some of the kindest most giving people who do not demand publicity or even acknowlegment for their charity and help to others. If you are Jewish , Gd is watching and listening .

    some of us just actually get more pleasure from helping others which may be a foreign concept to you . Get a life and a job you can hold on to and leave the Tabas’ alone

  • Bob

    Funny, criticizing me then posting anonymous, whoever you are. I have no ax to grind and rarely criticize others. I stand by everything I wrote. I only post anonymous so as not to suffer possible retribution from a family that can be very mean. And while my comments are about people I knew and worked with, your comments about me are meaningless, you know nothing about me. If you did, you’d know my whole life is about kindness. I only spoke up against the Tabas’s (and not all of them, by the way) because I was witness to the pain they, particularly Daniel, caused. The article that we are commenting on- do you think the journalist has an ax to grind? No, he researched a story and told it how it was. And yes, I am a Jew. Not the hypocritical kind of Jew that you are either. G-d is watching and listening, indeed. What arrogance. Perhaps your defense of Daniel is because you are a megalomaniac like he was. But I can’t say, because I don’t know you. Only a real horse’s…

  • Bob

    continued . . .Only a real horse’s ass would write what you did about someone you know absolutely nothing about!!