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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Will Missing, Americom Up for Grabs

Neither Paul Tatum's family nor his company's lawyer know whether the murdered American businessman left a will when he died, making it unclear whether his 58 percent share in Americom will fall to his relatives or to the Russian state.


The situation of Americom, the company through which Tatum claimed control of a 40 percent share of the joint venture that owns the Radisson Slavjanskaya hotel complex in central Moscow, is highly uncertain following his death.


That uncertainty starts with the question of Tatum's will, and ends with the issue of whether the company has any assets worth inheriting.


Tatum owned a controlling stake in Americom, with the rest of the shares held by around 2,000 small investors in the United States. At best, Tatum's 58 percent share would represent some 20 percent of the Radisson Slavjanskaya joint venture -- a substantial asset.


But no will has yet been found and Ray Markovich, Americom's lawyer, said he did not know whether Tatum had written one -- an extraordinary circumstance given the years of threats against Tatum's life and his hiring of 19 bodyguards to protect himself.


Tatum's close friend Natalya Bokadorova also said she did not know of a will. "He used to say 'I don't even know what I own,'" she said.


On Nov. 3, Tatum was gunned down as he and two bodyguards entered the Kievskaya metro station, just a few hundred meters from the hotel. The bodyguards were unhurt. Tatum was hit by 11 bullets.


Tatum's brother in law, Rick Furmanek, said in a telephone interview Friday that he did not want to comment on the business ramifications of his relative's death.


He said Tatum's parents, Edward and Mildred, were saddened and frustrated at the way the U.S. State Department had handled the killing.


The family only found out about the murder after a relative saw it reported on CNN news, he said, adding that he and his wife had wanted to travel to Moscow for the funeral but their trip was cancelled after the State Department failed to make the neces U.S. law dictates that the businessman's parents will inherit his shares if no will is found. But it is not clear whether Russian or U.S. estate law will govern the question of Tatum's legacy.


"Russian law basically says if the joint venture was established in Russia, Russian law should govern," said Coudert Brothers lawyer and former judge Olga Anissimova in a telephone interview Friday.


And if Tatum's estate is ruled to fall under Russian jurisdiction, the state could appropriate his estate because he has no relatives in the country. But Anissimova cautioned that the issue of who will inherit Tatum's shares is a judicial minefield that yields no obvious answers.


"It's unclear whether the rights of [Paul Tatum's] relatives may be protected because the Russian laws related to securities are very new, especially on this issue. Absolutely new," she said.


Besides his shares, Tatum left no personal wealth and did not have a life insurance policy, said a friend who did not want to be identified.


What Americom shares are worth, however, is an open-ended question.


While Americom's employees still go to work at the Radisson Slavjanskaya, they no longer run the Americom Business Center or any of the hotel complex facilities and receive no income from the property.


"Americom has no true assets without the joint venture in place," said a business associate of Tatum's who requested anonymity. "It was set up to exploit the relationship with the hotel, and it's owed about $6 million in incentive and management fees which stopped last summer."


The freezing out of Americom lies at the heart of the dispute that is now under arbitration in Stockholm. If Americom were to lose that judgement, it would be essentially worthless.


Eric Knapp, acting head of Americom since Tatum's death, was bullish about the prospects for a win in the arbitration court.


"The other side have had their innings and they have no runs on the scoreboard. It is now our turn to step up to the plate, and we have got some big hitters," he said, adding that they plan to press ahead with the case for now.


However, he signalled that Americom may now soften its line in the four-year dispute over the hotel complex. Tatum, president of Americom until his Nov. 3 death, had been unyielding in the dispute.


"Right now we're trying to re-establish communication with the Russian side [of the joint venture]. I've expressed to the Russian side our desire to be more conciliatory," Knapp said.


The Stockholm court is expected to deliver its final decision at the beginning of January, Markovich said.


Just 10 days before Tatum's murder, Americom lodged the 600,000 Swedish krona ($100,000) bond with the Stockholm court to allow the case to continue. Tatum had raised that money by selling a handful of "Freedom Bonds" promising a 100 percent return in six months.


Who bought the bonds is not clear, but few were sold. One source said that fully $50,000 was accounted for by a single bond.


Markovich said that if, as he expects, Americom wins its case, the other partners in the joint venture will be liable to pay reparations of $38 million. Should Americom lose, it would have to pay $7 million. But even if Americom's suit in Stockholm is successful, the company may have to pay itself part of the sum.


According to legislation governing joint ventures, all partners in the venture are responsible for paying off the venture's debts, in proportion to their stakes in the company. Therefore, in the event of a win in Stockholm, Americom could be liable to pay 40 percent of the $38 million award, Markovich said.


The Russian partners in the Radisson Slavjanskaya joint venture declined to comment on the litigation Friday, as did White and Case, the law firm representing them in Sweden.


Tom Polski, a spokesman for Radisson Hotels International, confirmed that his company is "in discussions" and has met with members of Tatum's family as well as Americom shareholders. Polski said the Minnesota-based company was "encouraged" by those discussions.


Radisson had appointed a liquidator to dissolve its partnership with Americom, but Polski hinted that the dissolution was not a foregone conclusion. He gave no further details.