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Disney ranch dispute to stay in California, Wyoming Supreme Court rules

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Bradford Lund

Bradford Lund, grandson of Walt Disney.

A dispute over a Teton County ranch owned by Walt Disney’s grandchildren will remain in a Los Angeles court, not in Wyoming, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled this past week.

Bradford Lund, Disney’s grandson, is trying to keep the ranch in the family while trustees for him and his sister are looking to move forward with a sale to a third party.

Lawyers for Lund appealed to the court to move the case to Wyoming, arguing that it should be heard in the same state where the ranch in question is located.

Having litigation pending in Wyoming, they argued, would also cloud the property’s title and could discourage a buyer from going through with the proposed sale. Wyoming is one of just a few states that does not recognize pending litigation notices from out of state.

Lund lives in Arizona, and his twin sister Michelle, whose trust owns the other half of the ranch, lives in California, according to court documents. Trustees for both siblings are also based in California.

The court said in its decision Wednesday that since most of the parties are local to California, the Los Angeles court is a more convenient forum for the case, affirming a prior ruling in Teton County.

Legal questions over the ranch’s ownership are just part of ongoing litigation related to Lund’s trust, which began in 2009. Lund has also attempted to remove his trustees from their control over his inheritance, saying that they’ve withheld $60 million in payments from him over 15 years.

“This action appears to be ancillary to the more than ten years of litigation between these parties, and the California court is better equipped to address this case given its history with the case, and [t]he location of all parties, witnesses, and evidence,” the decision in Teton County stated.

Eagle South Fork, a 110-acre ranch along the Snake River in Wilson, has been in Lund’s family for more than 40 years, according to one of his attorneys.

Trustees for the Lunds are reportedly pursuing an estimated $35 million offer for the property, from an undisclosed buyer, after a previous bid was withdrawn in the midst of litigation. Counsel for Lund said that the price far exceeds the property’s appraised value as is, and may suggest the buyers are hoping to use the land for a commercial development.

Now, the ranch is split into 15 residential lots plus a few larger parcels. Most of the property is undeveloped aside from a few buildings, and the property is surrounded on both sides by conservation land. Lund says he visits several times a year.

The trustees have also reportedly included a 2% “marketing fee” that would go to them upon completion of the sale for facilitating the deal. According to a Jackson-based lawyer representing Lund, that addition is highly unusual.

“I’ve been doing trust administration work for 22 years, and I’ve never seen a situation where a trustee got a fee for the sale of an asset,” attorney Chris Hawks told the Star-Tribune in February.

Lund previously filed for a temporary restraining order in Los Angeles in an attempt to pause the sale, but the motion was denied.

Lawyers on both sides of the dispute did not return requests for comment on Friday.

Follow city and crime reporter Ellen Gerst on Twitter at @ellengerst.

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