Shula, Stephens Battle Over $1 Million in Annual Alimony

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, May. 10, 2010 12:00 am  

Mary Anne Shula is in another courtroom battle with her former stepson, Warren A. Stephens, the CEO of Stephens Inc. of Little Rock, over a trust fund that was created to provide her $1 million a year in alimony for the rest of her life.

Shula, whose fourth husband is NFL Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula, divorced Stephens' father, Jackson T. "Jack" Stephens Sr., in 1991. Their divorce settlement granted her the lifetime income and a 12,000-SF vacation home in ultra-exclusive Indian Creek Island, Fla.

The feud between Mary Anne Shula, 64, and Warren Stephen, 53, started after the death of Jack Stephens on July 23, 2005, at the age of 81. The dispute has already cost Shula almost $160,000 in legal fees, and on Tuesday, the latest chapter of the battle is scheduled to play out in Pulaski County Circuit Court in front of Judge Ellen Brantley.

Stephens has asked Brantley for permission to distribute some jewelry and paintings from his father's estate. Shula has objected to the move, fearing that the assets of the estate would be drained, according to her response filed in the case.

"Just because there has been no default in the [alimony] payments ... to date does not mean there will never be such a default," Shula's attorneys wrote in a Feb. 2 filing.

Shula requested a bond be placed on the estate to secure her alimony money. Stephens, in response, has objected to adding a bond.

Stephens, through a spokesman, declined to comment. Shula didn't return a message left with an assistant last week at her home.

In 2008, Shula lost a lawsuit in which she accused Bank of America of breach of fiduciary duty for allowing Stephens to remove Stephens Inc. preferred stock as an asset of the trust and to replace it with an unsecured promissory note. The verdict from U.S. District Court in Little Rock was upheld on appeal by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis.

Meanwhile, Shula recently made a tearful plea to the Indian Creek Island village council not to increase her property assessment for police service on the 40-home island, saying she couldn't afford the additional $3,400 annual tax.

"My husband is 80 years old. ... He's on the back nine of his life," Shula said, as quoted in an April 29 article in Miami New Times. "Don is unable to do talks and signings like he used to. If our taxes go up, he'll suffer. ... What gives you the right to do this?"

Village attorney Stephen Helfman of Coral Gables, Fla., confirmed the story last week.

"Most people are going to see a savings when this goes into place," Helfman said. "Three property owners are going to have to pay a little more." Mary Anne Shula is one of those three.



Please read our comments policy before commenting.