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Beer distributorship dispute spills into Las Vegas court

A complex fraternal dispute within a prominent Chicago business family has spilled into the Las Vegas courts.

A suit filed in August in Clark County District Court by W. Rockwell “Rocky” Wirtz to halt the distribution to his brother Peter of some stock tied to big liquor distributor Wirtz Beverage Nevada was shifted to U.S. District Court on Wednesday. At issue is a Coors beer distributorship — an affiliate of Wirtz Beverage — that is 51 percent owned by Rocky. The other 49 percent was placed into a trust by his late father, William Wirtz, for Peter, Rocky and three siblings. No value has been placed on the shares.

William Wirtz’s estate is now the subject of separate legal proceedings in Chicago.

But Rocky brought this piece to Nevada because he contends that the 1980 deal to buy the Coors franchise was conditioned on the Coors parent company’s demand that it approve all of the shareholders. The only ones that Coors ever okayed were Rocky and William. The trust that includes the other Wirtz children was established nearly two decades later.

Coors did not request approval of William’s heirs, but in court papers Rocky Wirtz expressed fears that Peter will sell his stock to outsiders once he gains control of it.

Attorneys for Peter Wirtz have moved to dismiss the action, claiming that it is an exercise in “forum shopping,” or taking a matter to different courts in the hope of finding a friendly judge.

In addition, Peter’s attorneys contend that Rocky is trying to take effective control of all the stock of the Coors division, called Wirtz Beverage Nevada Beer, and deny him his rightful inheritance.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

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