Drama Playing Out Over Radio Pioneer Himan Brown’s Fortune

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by Frank Eltman, Associated Press              January 26, 2016

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Himan Brown might have titled it: “The Brouhaha Over the $100 Million Estate.”

A lawsuit claims the late creator of such legendary radio dramas as “Inner Sanctum,” “Dick Tracy” and “The Adventures of the Thin Man” was duped into putting the bulk of his $100 million fortune into a charitable trust controlled solely by his longtime lawyer.

Brown, a radio producer who died in New York City in 2010 at the age of 99, instead wanted the money go to an organization he founded to promote radio theater, according to court papers.

It claims attorney Richard L. Kay exploited Brown, who was 94 when he signed documents now being contested in Manhattan surrogate’s court. It says Kay used the trust “for his personal benefit, in disregard of the express intent of Mr. Brown’s will and prior estate plan.”

The lawsuit was filed by Radio Drama Network, Inc., a private foundation started by Brown in 1984 to foster his love and appreciation for the radio serials that popularized the airwaves in the 1930s and 1940s. Several members of his family serve on its board of directors.

Kay’s attorney, Michael B. Kramer, disputed that Brown was hoodwinked by anyone, and said the lawsuit is the latest in a series of court challenges by members of the Brown family over the fortune. He insisted Brown was mentally sharp in October 2004 when he signed papers for the newly created Himan Brown Charitable Trust, rather than leave it to the Radio Drama Network.

“He was beyond sharp as a tack,” Kramer said. “The last thing he was was mentally frail.”

Kay is the sole trustee of the Himan Brown Charitable Trust. The lawsuit claims that as trustee he has made donations to entities with no connections to Brown, including $3 million to the 92nd Street Y, where Kay is a member of the board of directors, and over $1 million to Cornell University, as well as gifts to the University of Michigan Law School, from which he graduated, and a Montessori school where Kay’s grandchild attended.

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