Legal Family Fight Over Millions Left By DC Comics Founder, Jacob Liebowitz

action-comics-1-cgc-9.0-whiteIt was wheeler dealing of the highest level that would make modern practitioners envious.

When Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson came to Independent News seeking a new distributor for his National Allied Publications, New Fun and New Comics, Jack Liebowitz was workin for IN owner Harry Donenfield. These were the first US comics to feature just original comics rather than newspaper strip reprints. But, in debt to IN, to fun a third title, Wheeler-Nicholson created a third company with Liebowitz, Detective Comics. Later, IN would bankrupt Wheeler-Nicholson, buy up National Allied and buy the Detective Comics assets, leaving Liebowitz as the sole owner of that company, publishing new comics in partnership with Donenfeld. It was Liebowitz who made the infamous Superman deal with Siegel and Schuster, brining the property to Action Comics, and choosing that famous first cover image.

And that is how DC Comics began. And even after his death, the wheeler dealing continues.

The New York Daily News and DNA info report that the family of the late Jacob Liebowitz are accusing his late widow Shirley Liebowitz‘s lawyer Dennis Drebsky and business manager Ronald Krause of conning her out millions from her $50 million estate.Jacob died in 2000, aged 100, Shirley died in April 2013.

It focuses on a 2012 will signed by Shirley, when she was nearly blind and suffering from lung cancer. The will states that Baruch College professor Robert Schwartz, Jacob’s son from his first marriage, gets 5% from a $3 million trust created on his behalf, when an earlier will saw his left $4 million with annuity. And his two grandchildren from that marriage state that the lawyer and manager in question “exerted undue influence on Shirley Liebowitz and blocked them from the chance to inherit millions as well.”

That will left Drebsky and Krause will a million dollars each, Drebsky as her executor, charged a million in fees, was in charge of distributing $30 million to Jewish charities, and had the estate pay the taxes on their payments from the will. The estate included two apartments in Central Park South, $41 million in stocks and bonds and a large collection of jewels, sculpture and artwork.

Robert Schwartz’ lawyer stated in court that says Liebowitz’ will is a product of “elder abuse, fraud and undue influences”, that 28 wills were created in 12 years with largely fluctuating amounts left to Drebsky and Krause, and that she had a “”hostile and dysfunctional, if not an outright abusive,” relationship with Krause in particular.” And that Schwartz’s son’s gift fell dramatically while Drebsky and Krause’s did the opposite.

He also charges that the lawyer and manager’s claims that they worked for her for free, including menial tasks and escorting her to events means that they were waiting until she died to be compensated. “It appears that Drebsky and Krause targeted her for their own advantage so that they could reap the benefits of her wealth upon death.”  And that all draft wills she signed were in large print because of her eyesight, but the final will was not, she didn’t even wear her glasses and no one read through the contract.

While the lawyer for Jacob’s grandchildren, state that a $7.5 million trust fund set up for Shirley was documented to transfer to them on her death, but that Krause withdrew hundred of thousands of dollars without authorisation.

In response, Drebskey’s lawyer denied any such conspiracy between him and Krause, that the money was left to compensate him for free legal work, as well as a deal with Sotheby;s to sell original artwork, the sale of their house and dealing with claims of unemployment insurance from domestic staff.

And in a written statement, Krause stated that Shirley “used her money in general, and her will in particular, as both a punishment and a reward. If the wind blew in the wrong direction on a given day, she would reduce your bequest. Conversely, if you jumped through hoops … she would reward you” and that “At the inception of our relationship, she unequivocally stated that she had no need for and did not seek my advice or counsel. She frequently stated that she was the only person upon whom she could ultimately rely to protect her interests.”




About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.