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

In 1986, the estate of Charles Tabas sued Daniel Tabas for cheating his brother’s family out of millions. The dispute roared on for decades, in and out of the courts, in and out of the papers, eventually dubbed by one participant “the Tabas Family Saga.” Now it’s snarled to the surface again. “It’s not easy,” Robert Tabas told the Philadelphia Business Journal after Lee’s letter hit the press. “But we are family.”

And they are family. One that some colleagues and acquaintances describe as loving, supportive and unabashedly generous. But one that also makes the Ewings look like the Waltons. And one that would make anyone want to be poor.

IT’S HARD TO decide when the Tabas Family Saga got ugliest. 

Was it when Charles’s wife and kids sued Dan and his kids the first time for not giving them their fair share? Or when they sued again, this time waving federal RICO charges and claiming he’d been bilking them for years through a racketeering scheme and mail fraud? Or when Dan Tabas called his brother’s family’s behavior “disgraceful,” then added, “My brother must be rolling in his grave”? Perhaps it was when Charles’s daughter, Nancy, claimed that her uncle Daniel “hated my father and he hated us because we were his children,” or maybe when Daniel said that his sister-in-law Harriette, who has three children, two of them adopted, was jealous because “I have a beautiful family and she couldn’t have a family.” Or was it when Charles’s son Andy declared, “My uncle’s ego is so big, you couldn’t fit it in Veterans Stadium”?

Or was the ugliest part of the Tabas Family Saga simply the fact that the Tabas family just couldn’t let anything go?

Last fall, when Eric Naftulin came across Lee Tabas’s letter on the Internet, he was worried. As executive director of Federation Housing in Northeast Philadelphia, Naftulin manages homes for elderly people who are poor, and two of his buildings carry the Tabas family name. When he’d approached Robert, his board president, about renovating the Samuel Tabas House on Strahle Street, Robert had said, “Let me talk to my brother about this.” Not only did the Tabas brothers come up with money for the project; they were on the guest list for an event the week after the letter came out, to celebrate the remodeled first floor.

It had never occurred to Naftulin that there might be bad blood in the Tabas clan. Lee and Robert always showed up at events. Last year, Robert’s daughter called and asked if she and her girlfriends could put on a little concert for the residents — they came and brought lunch. In April, Robert was on the West Coast when one of the residents took a spill. He called Naftulin at 4 a.m. California time, saying, “I read your e-mail about the accident and I can’t sleep. Is everyone okay?” “They are two gentlemen who want to do good,” Naftulin says of the Tabas brothers.

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  • 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!!