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Disthene settlement approved

Eight years of litigation over the treatment of minority shareholders in a family-controlled business came to an end Monday in a Buckingham County courtroom as teams of lawyers, clients and observers looked on.

Circuit Judge Jane Marum Roush approved the proposed $77-million settlement that will allow the minority owners to cash in their shares for ten times what the controlling group of owners claimed they were worth, according to a lawyer for the minority owners.

“It’s been a long, arduous journey,” said Thomas M. Wolf, one of the lawyers for two minority shareholders who endured years of litigation culminating in a three-week trial last summer.

The trial produced a 41-page opinion in which Roush ordered the breakup of The Disthene Group Inc. based on her conclusion the controlling family members would never treat the minority owners fairly. Under the settlement, the breakup is called off and the controlling owners are restored to power.

As part of Monday’s settlement approval, Roush also endorsed the planned sale of Virginia’s Beach’s historic Cavalier Hotel complex – long owned by The Disthene Group – to a developer for $35.1 million.

The developer, Bruce Thompson, is expected to discuss his plans for the property with members of the Virginia Beach city council Tuesday.

Uncertainty about the future of The Cavalier cast doubt on whether the Virginia State Bar would be able to continue its 35-year tradition of holding its Annual Meeting at the legendary hotel next year. VSB leaders are awaiting word on whether the facility will be able to accept a booking for the 2014 Annual Meeting.

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