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Widow of Holiday World's president gains park control

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A judge has awarded control of southern Indiana's Holiday World & Splashin' Safari to the widow of the theme park's late president, resolving a two-year legal fight.

Vanderburgh County circuit Judge Carl Heldt ruled that Lori Koch is majority owner of the holding company that operates the popular Santa Claus theme park. Her husband, Holiday World president Will Koch, died unexpectedly in June 2010 at age 48.

In the wake of the court's ruling, Lori Koch fired her brother-in-law, Dan Koch, who had served as Holiday World president following his brother's death.

Dan Koch is appealing the judge's ruling over control of the theme park, which Evansville Industrialist Louis J. Koch opened in 1946 under the name Santa Claus Land. Since that time, the Koch family has owned and operated the theme park, which has undergone numerous expansions.

The Evansville Courier & Press reported that Lori Koch named Matt Eckert, the park's former general manager, as its new president and CEO this week. Lori Koch will serve as the park's vice president.

A statement released Thursday by park spokeswoman Paula Werne said that following Will Koch's death "questions involving the interpretation of the company's Shareholders' Agreement arose" and the Koch family turned to the court system to resolve those issues.

"Regardless of the outcome, the park will continue to be owned and operated by members of the Koch family," Werne's statement said.

She confirmed that the $6.5 million in park improvements and additions announced last year will be completed as planned.

Court records show that Lori Koch sued Dan Koch and Koch Development Co. in January 2011, claiming her husband's 49,611.6 shares of the company were worth more than $32 million.

But Dan Koch and Koch Development Co. valued the shares at $26.8 million. The Evansville Courier & Press reports that the value of the shares was to be determined by a formula based on the park's value and earnings.

Will and Dan Koch and their sister Natalie Koch each owned equal shares of Koch Development Co. An agreement they signed in 2002, stated that upon the death of any of the siblings, the company would purchase that person's shares.

Natalie Koch sold her shares to her brothers shortly before Will Koch's death.

Lori Koch and Will Koch's estate had argued that the per-share price should be $653.07, based on shareholder meetings in 2008 and 2009 and a share transaction between Will and Dan Koch in 2009.

Dan Koch and the holding company had argued the price should be $541.93 per share.

In his ruling, Heldt agreed with Lori Koch and the estate, saying Dan Koch and the holding company improperly used the stock value from Dec. 31, 2009, rather than the purchase date. His ruling permanently excuses Lori Koch and the estate from any obligation to transfer the stock back to the holding company or Dan Koch.

Dan Koch and the company immediately appealed the ruling. His attorney, Kevin Patmore of Santa Claus, said Friday that he had no comment.

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  • Sad
    It is sad that such a well run and respected organization has this in-fighting. It can't bode well for the continued success when the leaders are distracted by their own interests.

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  1. A couple of issues need some clarification especially since my name was on the list. I am not sure how this information was obtained and from where. For me, the amount was incorrect to begin with and the money does not come to me personally. I am guessing that the names listed are the Principal Investigators (individual responsible for the conduct of the trail) for the different pharmaceutical trials and not the entity which receives the checks. In my case, I participate in Phase II and Phase III trials which are required for new drug development. Your article should differentiate the amount of money received for consulting, for speaking fees, and for conduct of a clinical trial for new drug development. The lumping of all of these categories may give the reader a false impression of physicians just trying to get rich. The Sunshine Law may help to differentiate these categories in the future. The public should be aware that the Clinical Trial Industry could be a real economic driver for Indiana since these revenues supports jobs and new job creation. Nationally, this account for 10-20 billion which our State is missing out on to a large degree. Yes, new drug and technology development has gotten most of the attention (e.g. CTSI, BioCrossroads, etc.) However, serious money is being left on the table by not participating in the clinical trials to get those new drugs and medical devices on the market!!!! I guess that this is not sexy enough for academia.

  2. The address given for the Goldfish Swim Club is the Ace Hardware, is it closing?

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  5. You guys are being really rude to gays in the comments. (Not all of you, I presume). You need to stop it. Gays have just as much of a right to marry as straight people do. It's not fair how you guys are denying them equal rights. They're acting more human than you'll ever be. We obviously haven't matured since the bible was last updated. Hate the sin, not the sinner. You've all committed a sin at least once in your life. You've lied, you've stolen, etc. (Those are just possibilities). We should have a planet for people that support gay rights and a planet for people that don't. Then, gay people could get married without you bigots interfering with their love life. How would you feel if straights couldn't get married? How would you feel if teenagers were afraid to come out to their parents as straight? If straight people got hate everywhere they went? If straight people were afraid to go out in public, because they feared being judged? It's never going to happen at the rate society is going. You haven't seen the side of me where I act obscene. You're glad my inner demon hasn't been released. I would, but oh no, my comment would be removed because of my very strong emotions about this subject. I love gays, and love how they show their affection for each other. I just ADORE how a state is going to give same-sex couples a marriage license, then changes their mind. (I was obviously being sarcastic there). I just LOVE how society thinks gays are an abomination to our society. You're caring about marriage between two men or two women. That's a small thing. Just grow up, and let them marry. Let them live their lives. You can't make them change their sexuality. You can't make them change their lifestyle. In my opinion, gays are more than welcome to marry. Please, grow up and realize that people should be allowed to marry, even if it's same-sex marriage. You guys are saying that "the bible said gay marriage is wrong." Well, guess what else is wrong? Read Matthew:7 and you'll find out. (I am in no way breaking that. I am saying a fact). I'm stating that gays have just as much of a right to marry as straights do. (:

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