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REO Speedwagon…

Posted by on August 7, 2016
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REO Speedwagon is an American rock band. Over the course of its career the band has sold more than 40 million records, including a dozen Top 40 Hits. Today, band remains a popular live act almost 50 years after being formed in 1967.

REPRESENTING A ROCK STAR. All divorce lawyers dream of representing high-profile clients. As you’ll remember, I’ve previously introduced you to NFL Hall of Fame member Fred  Biletnikoff and to Eddie Feigner, whose “King and His Court” fast pitch four man baseball team toured the country and sent many a Major League player back to the dugout. Representing them is interesting not just because there’s a “wow factor,” but also because they have large estates, big incomes and challenging legal problems. So when in about 1982 the wife of one of the Speedwagon band members came to see me about a divorce, I was flattered and excited. If not a rock star, I reasoned…one’s wife will do just fine.  And I was intrigued by the issues: Royalties, business valuation (the band), celebrity valuation (the rockstar), income evaluation and tax consequences. And as to spousal support: (That used to be called alimony.) How much? How long? And what if wife found a boyfriend? How would that affect her support? Or should it? And how much income did the band enjoy, anyhow? Can’t really trust them to say the truth under these circumstances, right? I’d have to do extensive discovery, engage forensic accountants, business valuation experts and…well it was going to be an expensive and long process to get Wife from where she was to the other end of the tunnel. She was young and seemed a bit naive, but she was very nice.

reo2NEXT IN AN OCCASIONAL SERIES. This blog was never intended to be a “travelogue.” Remember, this is more than a chronicle of our journey across America. So today’s post is next in an occasional series about specific chapters in the book I’m writing, “My Life in Court.” You remember, don’t you? I told you a long time ago about my book. It’s a memoir about my career as a trial lawyer. (A memoir is different than an autobiography. It’s devoted to one aspect of the writer’s life…in my case the 35 years I spent as an attorney in San Diego. An autobiography is about the writer’s entire life. Trust me…I’m not working on an autobiography. My entire life story would bore you to tears!)

MY BOOK DEAL. The first draft of my book is about half complete. As you know, I announced early-on my decision to take a break from writing the book while we’re exploring America. While we’re traveling, my focus is on our Adventure. Writing a book is hard work. It’s time consuming and requires discipline. Prolific writers such as my friend John Grisham agree. So I’m not going to compromise it by multi-tasking or trying to write a little each night before bed. No, it just doesn’t work that way. Stated a bit differently, “I’m not going to dilute either experience…our Adventure or writing my book.” So this series of blog posts will be mere snippets about specific chapters in my book. Just enough to keep you interested so you’ll buy the book it when it’s published. Think about this series  as a preview of coming attractions.

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Circa 1970.

MY FIRST MEETING WITH “KAREN SPEEDWAGON.” I’d set aside several hours for my first meeting with her. That first meeting is extremely important and this promised to be a big case. I’d need to provide lots of information about the law as it relates to divorce proceedings.  The court process would also need to be explained. And I’d need to assess my new client to insure that we were compatible. She’d need to do the same for me. I started with the education process, explaining that California is a community property state and that all marital assets must be divided equally. Or if not, an equalizing payment must be made by one spouse to the other to equalize the division of assets. If one spouse didn’t insist on her rights, I explained, there was no mandate for an equal division. But when clients said, “I just want my clothing and my car. He can have everything else,” it made me very nervous. I knew that in six months or at sometime in the future that “generous” (defined as stupid) client would change her mind and be angry with me for selling her down the river. I often said, “Why don’t we get your legal share of the property and a reasonable amount of support. If you later decide you don’t want your entitlement, it can always be given back to him.” Or better yet, give it to your friendly divorce lawyer.

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The lead singer and his backup years later. Still going strong. Tickets for the Band’s current tour range from $50 to $600. 

EXPLAINING THE LAW.  As I began to explain to Karen the court process and the law, I noted that cases like these typically take a long time to settle or to try in court before a Judge. Often years. “We’ll be getting to know one another very well, because we’re going to be spending more time together than you and your husband have spent together recently,” I told her. Karen seemed a little preoccupied but I had no sense of things to come.

BEGINNING THE PROCESS. Karen seemed reluctant to have me prepare the pleadings and other documents necessary to begin the case. “I know the marriage is over, at least that’s what he says. But do we really have to rush into this, she asked with open eyes. Can’t we talk to him? Maybe he will listen to you, Mr. Alford.” I assured her that we could talk, that in fact that was my style. I was good at that. But the case needed to be filed, to start the mandatory six month waiting period which under California must occur before the case can be finalized. After sensing that this young lady was probably frightened, not of Mr. Speedwagon but at the prospect of losing her status as his wife and all that meant to her. I decided to go along with her wishes and talk first, file later. After all, he hadn’t filed either so maybe she was meeting with me  as the result of a big argument and her decision to teach him a lesson after all. Maybe she wanted to make a point rather than gain the edge. We’d soon find out. I took my investigator, a forensic accountant and one of my paralegal assistants to the Amtrak Station and we headed for Los Angeles. I wanted to impress on Karen and Mr. Speedwagon that we were serious and although it was to be an informal meeting, the process would be thorough. Soon enough, I met Mr. Wagon and a few of his advisors.

SHE ARRANGED A MEETING. She and Mr. Speedwagon were in Los Angeles at the time and a meeting was arranged there. I had already told Karen my hourly ratemeeting and that even though he’d likely be ordered to pay most of my fees, she needeed to make a financial investment in me if she wanted me to represent her. History had taught me that unless a client has made a financial investment in me she was almost unconscious of the time she expected me to spend. That gets pricy, time consuming and is generally not productive. At $80 for a 12 minute phone call, wasting time was not an option. So Karen got a $10,000 retainer together. Mr. Speedwagon probably gave her the money, as I suspect he understood that Karen needed an attorney. And that was probably pocket change for him! I knew that much already. At the meeting, I resisted the temptation to get his autograph. That wouldn’t have very professional and I doubt Karen would have been impressed. Mr. was a nice guy, though somewhat affected and acted as if he was the only one in the room whose time was valuable. It was clear that Karen had arranged the meeting with her husband more to make an impression than to discuss how we’d proceed with discovery. (That’s a process of ways in which information is obtained under oath, such as by taking depositions. Information about income, lifestyles and a chance for me to assess my adversary.) No, what Karen wanted to do was impress on him how painful it would be if he persisted in his demand that the marriage be terminated.

understandBUT MR. ALFORD, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. During a break, Karen told me that “We really don’t need to go through all of this” she said. “I don’t want anything but his Porsche. That’ll show him. It’s a Turbo Charged 911 Porsche Cabriolet. You should see it. It’s the coolest car in the world! That’s all I want. He can have everything else.” After I realized she wasn’t kidding, I explained that she could have the Porsche and a whole lot more. Or she could buy a whole stable of Porsche’s for that matter. She and I engaged in a bit of an argument about why I’d bothered to take Amtrack to Los Angeles if all she wanted was a car. She could have told him of her demand. She really didn’t need to have retained me to do her talking for her. We didn’t resume the meeting after the break. I returned to San Diego and I don’t know for sure where Karen went. I do know they left the hotel together in that Porsche! And when I returned to my office and thought more about Karen I decided that I couldn’t in good conscience represent her. No, I’d have to go without that autograph, no matter how much my daughters had wanted me to get it so they could show their friends.

I FIRED KAREN AS A CLIENT.  I waited a few days before contacting Karen and telling her why I couldn’t represent her. I’d return her retainer after subtracting the fees I’d earned. She seemed relieved. To this day I don’t know what happened to those two. It’s really none of my business.

DO YOU GUYS WANT TO HEAR MORE OF THESE STORIES? I’ve always enjoyed meeting people. Clients. Expert witnesses and more recently fellow travelers. You too? Do you want more client stories? I’ve represented the Mayor, a couple of Judges, the local TV meteorologist, an NBA star, a wealthy Texas cattleman who was traveling with his friends in Pink Floyd when he first called me. Wouldn’t you like to know a little about these guys. Leave a comment after this post and let me know. I enjoy posting stories about my clients but what’s important here is whether you enjoy reading them. If you’d prefer letting me know privately, you can email me or we can even talk on the phone. I’ll wait to hear from you.

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I’ll continue my story next time.

5 Responses to REO Speedwagon…

  1. JW

    When I was a child, my father and uncle played on a fast pitch softball team- The Pensacola Flyers. They played the King and his court several times so just seeing their name brought back good memories. I remember Mr. Eddie well…..

  2. Natasha

    Natasha loves stories of rich people…shows how they have trouble too…

  3. Greg Alford

    JW: Let me guess who won those games between Eddie and your dad and uncle? I’d say the smart money is on Eddie. He was quite a guy. I enjoyed the time I spent with him and his wife, Rosemary.

  4. Greg Alford

    Hello again Natasha: Eddie wasn’t rich, really. He worked hard and was at the top of his game every time he took the mound, but even celebrities have issues and you’re right, they are troubled, too.

  5. Annie Skarie

    Wish I had had you as my lawyer when I divorced my first husband!!!!!!!! I got squat from him. He was a narcissist who thought he was the hottest doctor. But Karma caught up to him & now unfortunately he’s in ill health and basically on his death bed. Oh well. And I loved REO Speedwagon back in the day.

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