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 any deal, there’s only one winner,” Tabas once told an associate. “And it’s always me.”

Harriette was determined not to let that happen. Though the U.S. District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Dan in the RICO suit, she and the other executors of Charles’s estate filed a civil suit against him and his entourage. In the end, the family that seemed unable to settle anything actually settled out of court. And Dan lost a lot more than he won.   

Both sides agreed that the best plan would be to liquidate Tabas Enterprises, which meant selling the joint real estate holdings Dan and Charles Tabas had spent more than half their lives collecting, totaling more than 530 acres. By freeing the families from their business ties, they’d also be liberating them from their personal ones. In 1997, Dan put 20 properties on the market, valued at more than $50 million. And one by one, the connections between the Tabases began to unravel.  The Business Journal announced, in its headline about the settlement, “Tabas Family Feud Ends.”

BUT THEN, IN 2003, Dan Tabas died.

More than 1,200 mourners came to services at Temple Adath Israel in Merion; the procession of cars to the estate in Haverford was more than two miles long. Dan was buried in a private mausoleum on the grounds of Acorn Farm.

One family friend was surprised that after all the bad blood spilled between the two sides of the family, Charles’s son Richard actually came to Dan’s funeral. “What are you doing here?” the friend asked Richard.

“I want to make sure he’s really dead,” Richard joked, according to the friend.

But it didn’t matter anymore if the bad blood stayed bad. There was nothing left for the families to feud over. In 2006, the final court documents filed in the matter read, sadly, “Estate of Charles L. Tabas, Deceased, v. Estate of Daniel M. Tabas, Deceased.” Harriette’s side had received its cut from the sale of the properties, and the paperwork confirmed the rest — an arbitration award of an additional $9.5 million.

There also wasn’t much to do at Royal Bank. For the first time ever, a non-Tabas was in charge. Joe Campbell was growing the bank; Robert was vice-presidenting; Lee was running his own business, Tabas Funding, and teaching MBA students at Philadelphia University. Of course, he still had stock in the bank. If Lee and Robert were still battling privately, no one outside of their circles knew about it. All went so quiet on the Tabas family front that Philadelphians were starting to forget about them.

Then Susan Tabas Tepper, sister to Lee and Robert, got herself arrested on May 21, 2006. The incident made headlines and punch lines all over the county — the Main Line heiress who became so furious with her nanny for not cleaning out the refrigerator that she hurled a bag of carrots at her, pushed her into the fridge, and hit her in the head with a phone. When the nanny, a Nicaraguan immigrant, told Susan she was calling the police, Susan yelled, “I’m important. You’re nothing. No one will believe you.”

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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!!