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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