Control of Holiday World at stake in legal battle

Posted Thursday, January 10, 2013 9:29 AM | Contributed by Jason Hammond

The Kochs of Santa Claus, Spencer County’s most recognized family, entered 2013 on a legal roller coaster that has left, at least for now, majority control of family-owned Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari in the hands of the widow of the park’s former president. A December verdict in a civil suit fought over the past two years in Vanderburgh County left controlling interest of the nation’s oldest theme park with Lori Koch, widow of the park’s late president, Will Koch, and the personal representative of his estate.

Read more from The Spencer County Journal.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013 1:19 PM

Wow. What an unpleasant situation for everyone involved. I had no idea that any of this was going on in Santa Claus. Kudos to the park for keeping a lid on the drama this long (unless I missed a news story).

I didn't even raise an eyebrow when I read the original story of there being a new park president. It seemed to make sense to me that Dan would return to his attorney job and a replacement groomed for the role would step in. This article sheds an entirely different light on the tale.

Whatever the outcome is, I hope the park continues down its family driven road of success.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013 1:49 PM

I thought it was odd that Dan was there on a long-term basis. It seemed odd that he up and left Florida and his business there. This makes it even more odd. I mean, whether or not Lori Koch married into the family seems irrelevant to me... is she not still family?

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Thursday, January 10, 2013 2:01 PM

Wow, what a shame. I've held such high regards for Holiday World over the years even though I've never visited simply because it seemed like all of their decisions were made with such character and class.

I don't know anything about this so I'm not about to start judging but this is just a shame and a blemish on what I've often considered a remarkable family.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013 2:11 PM

I'd say that Lori's family, but who knows how the family feels personally. Sometimes in-laws are viewed differently especially if money drives a wedge between them. The park's statement "Regardless of the outcome, the park will continue to be owned and operated by members of the Koch family" seems correct. If anything, Will and Lori's children should definitely count for family.

* edited to add, I'm not judging anyone either. Things happen. I still love the park and the family.

Last edited by Rihard, Thursday, January 10, 2013 2:13 PM
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Friday, January 11, 2013 7:36 AM

Riddle me this? Had either Will or Dan wanted their shares in the park to be passed to their respective spouses upon their deaths, why did they even have this buy/sell agreement in place. The fact that they had each signed the agreement makes me think that they "wished" for the surviving brother to have the park.

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Friday, January 11, 2013 1:00 PM

I'm not going to try to understand their contracts and motivations.. My one concern though - where does Pat fit into this? I would have a hard time attending this year if she was on the 'outs' and not part of the park anymore as a result of this squabble. Hopefully now that a legal decision has been made, the parties can sort it out internally for the benefit of everyone.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013 11:04 PM

When the litigation is all said and done, I wonder who is going to end up being the owner...Palace Entertainment or CNL?

Last edited by Hanging n' Banging, Sunday, January 13, 2013 11:09 PM
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Monday, January 14, 2013 1:01 AM

Koch or Koch.

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Monday, January 14, 2013 6:52 AM

My friend and I discussed this briefly last night. It seems a shame, but is perhaps not unexpected as anyone who has worked with a family member will know.

The conversation eventually moved to "Will this make their family friendly image etc harder to sell?". We figured not.

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Monday, January 14, 2013 9:15 AM

Unfortunately, this type of thing is not uncommon in family business as it goes through the generations. The initial owners really build the business. Their children get a strong sense of the business. But as it goes further down the chain, there are differing opinions as to what should happen to the business.

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Monday, January 14, 2013 9:18 AM

That's very true. I think you can safely say that's how Kennywood got to where it is. I would never start a business with friends or family, but you obviously have less choice when you're born into it or marry into it.

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Monday, January 14, 2013 3:54 PM

Correct me if I'm wrong. But, I believe Waldameer has a plan in place to help combat future family indifference. I thought Steve said at one point that only family members willing to work at the park would be allowed to have a stake in the park. I don't know if they have shares though. If they do, I suppose you could still run into a situation like is happening at Holiday World.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013 5:13 AM

The park isn't the only business Koch Development is involved in.

That's all I'll add to the conversation :)

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Thursday, January 17, 2013 7:35 AM

Thank you Mr Obvious.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013 9:04 PM

Is that actually true, Chuck? My understanding is that Koch Development is the park and the campground, while just about everything else (that the Kochs of Santa Claus are involved with) is in the other company (HoHoHo).

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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