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

BUT THEN, IN 1983, Charles Tabas died.

So, too, did his father’s wish that the family would always come first.

“My father couldn’t have been dead more than a couple of days when Uncle Dan came in waving a paper that stated that the surviving brother becomes the manager of the business,” Nancy Tabas, Charles’s daughter, told the Inquirer in 2001. “My brothers and I looked at each other. We had barely buried my father in the ground.”

At first, having Dan in charge seemed to work. Both he and Charles’s widow, Harriette, received $10,000 checks each month from the business, which also paid various personal expenses for them. Plus, Dan took in as much as $180,000 a year for managing Tabas Enterprises. But after three years, Tabas Enterprises suddenly stopped paying Harriette’s expenses, even as it kept paying Dan’s.     

Harriette responded with a lawsuit. It claimed that her brother-in-law was being unfair with the income, and that he was also sending false financial statements and using business money for personal use.

“No one was happy about being in court,” says Roy Jonas, who flew up from Florida to try and help the Tabases work things out.

One person close to the family, though, says that all of this had very little to do with Dan not playing fair with the money. The real issue was that Dan hadn’t played fair with his niece and nephews. According to the friend, soon after Charles died, Dan took all of Charles’s kids off the payrolls of the various family businesses. That, says the friend, is what ignited the fire. “I don’t know why he fired them,” says the friend, who notes that at the time, all the Tabas cousins had been working for the family business, though their jobs didn’t necessarily require much work. “If it was me, I would have hired them back as soon as there was a problem. But once Dan took a position, he wouldn’t back away from it.”

Which may be why even after Dan signed a settlement agreement in 1987 that said, among other things, he would allow Charles’s family to see the books for Tabas Enterprises, he continued to withhold them.

And that may be why Harriette dialed it up a notch: She filed another suit against Dan, his family, and some executives at Royal Bank. But this one wasn’t in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. This complaint was federal — brought in 1991 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, claiming that Dan Tabas and the rest of the defendants “conspired to defraud the Estate of its equal share of Tabas Enterprises’ income … through a pattern of racketeering activity including mail fraud” that deprived them of more than $3 million that rightfully belonged to Charles’s family.

That’s when things really got nasty.

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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!!