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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