Column: Legal turmoil embroils San Diego’s pioneering Fletcher family
Marilyn Fletcher, 91, faces eviction from multimillion-dollar Del Mar estate she and her late husband, Kim, occupied for years because some of the children want to sell
The pioneering Fletcher family has been making news in Southern California for generations — mostly good news, but not always.
Charles “Kim” Fletcher, who died in 2019 at age 91, turned Home Federal Savings & Loan, founded by his father, into San Diego’s biggest financial institution. It collapsed, though, in 1992 in the wave of S&L failures that swept across the nation.
In his obituary in The San Diego Union-Tribune, Kim Fletcher was recalled as a kind and fair man, a powerful and revered supporter of the San Diego community and go-to leader in local GOP circles.
The story noted that one of Fletcher’s grandfathers, C.E. Toberman, founded the Hollywood Bowl, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and other Hollywood institutions. He also purchased beachfront property in Del Mar.
The other grandfather, Col. Ed Fletcher, was a force in developing Del Mar and eastern San Diego — including Grossmont, Mount Helix and Fletcher Hills. He was a director of the 1915 and 1935 Expositions in Balboa Park. As a state senator for 12 years, Ed Fletcher authored legislation to create the San Diego County Water Authority and transfer ownership of Mission Bay to the city.
But this wealthy, ambitious family dynasty also has been plagued by discord.
In 1993, the community reverberated with the news that Ed Fletcher III, in a reported alcohol-fueled rage, had shot and killed two friends, a couple who had joined him for dinner at his Borrego Springs home.
Twenty years later, Ron Fletcher, a Mission Beach real estate agent, survived after being shot in the stomach while trying to fend off an attack in his home by his sister’s estranged husband. Ron was honored for his courage by the District Attorney’s Office.
Today, another Fletcher saga is playing out in San Diego courts that pits some family members against others, in part, over the Fletcher family’s Del Mar oceanfront compound.
It is a long and complicated saga but, according to filings in San Diego Superior Court, Kim Fletcher and his second wife, Marilyn, had sold their Point Loma home and were living full-time in the multimillion-dollar beachfront property on Sandy Lane in Del Mar when he died in 2019.
Fletcher had married Marilyn Rosser in 1974 after he and his first wife divorced. Her two children from a previous marriage, Lori and Blake, had joined with his four kids, Wendy, Brian, Jody and Mindy, and she helped raise the combined family.
In 1975, Fletcher transferred ownership of the Del Mar beach property to his company, the Investors Leasing Corp. (which he headed) reportedly for financial, tax and estate planning purposes.
When, in 1997, the couple sold their Point Loma estate and moved into the Del Mar house part time, they began paying the corporation monthly rent with the idea that this would be their life estate.
Court filings indicate the financial arrangement was laid out in a lifetime lease agreement running through 2031, with rent beginning at $7,500 a month, to be adjusted every 10 years based on the consumer price index.
A couple years after Kim Fletcher’s death, however, Marilyn, now 91, found that things had changed, as had the dynamics of the Investors Leasing Corp. (ILC). It now was presided over by her stepdaughter, Wendy Fletcher Dyer.
After the ILC filed a notice to evict Marilyn in June 2022, Marilyn’s attorneys responded in July with a lawsuit against specific officers, directors and shareholders of the ILC (referred to as defendants), alleging breach of contract, trespassing, wrongful eviction, intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud, among other allegations.
“Beginning in the summer of 2021, defendants began taking hostile and harassing actions toward plaintiff,” stated Marilyn Fletcher’s lawsuit.
It alleged that the defendants were trying to sell the property. They “removed plaintiff and her belongings from the (detached) guest house, used the guest house and changed the locks to the guest house without plaintiff’s permission and prevented plaintiff from using the guest house or accessing her personal property locked inside of it.”
The complaint also alleged that “No Trespassing” signs were posted by the guest house.
Despite being ordered to vacate by Aug. 5, 2022, Marilyn refused to move out, citing the terms of the 1997 lease. The catch was that, while a copy of the lease document existed and the couple had made their intent known, the reported “signed” copy was nowhere to be found.
Hence, the leading parties of the ILC filed an unlawful detainer case alleging that Marilyn was in violation of the eviction notice.
Court filings show the split along family lines. The four children whom Kim Fletcher brought into his 45-year marriage with Marilyn on one side (along with ILC CFO Scott Kaohu), and Marilyn and her two children on the other.
The attorney-filed paperwork has piled up from both sides, and a trial readiness conference is scheduled today in front of San Diego Superior Court Judge Ronald Frazier. The trial tentatively is slated to begin Friday.
Perhaps there will be a settlement, and a trial can be avoided.
However, Jennifer Freedman, whose law office represents the defendants in Marilyn Fletcher’s lawsuit, said this week that she believes the case will go to trial. She referred my interview request to an attorney in her office closer to the case, but we were unable to connect before my deadline Wednesday.
If a settlement isn’t negotiated, the ensuing legal proceedings could provide another public peek into the Fletcher dynasty worthy of an episode of HBO’s “Succession,” a hit series that follows family infighting to inherit control of a media empire.
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