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

Dan began to work magic in Downingtown, building, wooing tenants like Pepperidge Farm Bakery, Pillsbury and the Philip Morris Tobacco Company. Eventually it seemed as though the Tabas family owned everything. There were hotels like the Downingtown Motor Inn (phones in the bathrooms!) and Mickey Rooney’s Tabas Hotel (Dan had met Mickey in the service; Rooney called Dan “Uncle”). There were the dinner theaters, the bowling palace, the Twelve Caesars banquet hall, the golf course. And, in 1980, Royal Bank. The Tabas brothers even tried to buy the Eagles.

“Dan was able to see into the future,” says Donald Trump, a close friend of Dan and the family. “He was able to see where the world was going to be in five years. Not many people have that ability.”

As a result of all of this success, over the years the Tabases rubbed shoulders with the B-List rich and famous: Frank Sinatra Jr., Frankie Valli, Debbie Reynolds. Dan fired Zsa Zsa Gabor from her starring role in a City Line Dinner Theater show for allegedly insisting that a group of people in wheelchairs be removed from the front row. (Picketers outside the theater chanted, “One, two, three, four! Say you’re sorry, Miss Gabor!”) Charles and Harriette celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary on the QE2; there was a sacred spot on a wall in their home where Eleanor Roosevelt had signed her name during a party.

As Sam Tabas watched his boys take control of his empire, he stayed true to his original purpose, right up until his death in 1972: family first. He started a trust to fund the educations and medical needs of his descendants, as long as they were “of my blood.” He also created a club called the “Tabas Family Circle,” and sponsored a huge reunion for the families of his brothers and sister. “It is my hope,” he wrote, “that my sons will carry on the tradition.”

It seemed Charles and Dan Tabas were set to do just that, especially after March 12, 1964. That was the day the brothers signed their partnership agreement. They were now, officially, equal partners in Tabas Enterprises, which comprised virtually everything the family owned. If one of them died, the agreement stipulated, the other would assume sole and total control of the business, plus act as fiduciary for the estate of his brother, making sure that his estate continued to get its equal share of income.

“The two brothers trusted each other in life,” Dan’s son-in-law, Ken Tepper, once told the Daily News, “and beyond.”

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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!!