ST. CLOUD, Minn. - Four children are arguing over the estate of their father, Bobby Vee, the Fargo native who became a star in the early years of rock 'n' roll after filling in at a concert in Moorhead 58 years ago, on Feb. 3, 1957, for a trio of rock legends killed early that morning in a plane crash.
Robert Velline, also known as Bobby Vee, died Oct. 24, 2016, from Alzheimer's disease shortly after the premiere of his life story, "Teen Idol: The Bobby Vee Story," on stage at the St. Paul History Theater.
That production and its revenues are the subject of a petition recently filed in Stearns County District Court by two of Vee's children, Robert Velline and Jennifer Whittet Velline. The two accuse their siblings, Thomas and Jeffrey Velline, of mishandling estate money for personal benefit and for the benefit of Rockhouse Production, a recording studio in St. Joseph that Vee and his wife, Karen, of Detroit Lakes, started in the 1980s.
Jeffrey and Thomas Velline began managing Rockhouse in 2000 after touring with their father since 1994.
According to the petition:
Jennifer and Robert Velline are requesting sustained damages in excess of $50,000 from their brothers for the theatrical production. They objected to the play along with their mother, who was only willing to approve of the play if all four children were in agreement.
Karen, Robert and Jennifer Velline opposed the play because of its content, the unfavorable provisions dealing with division of revenues and the allocation of subsidiary rights, among other reasons.
In September 2014, Robert and Jennifer Velline heard from the theater that the play concept was moving forward because Jeffrey Velline claimed he had the authority to contract with the theater as Vee's attorney, despite objections from the other family members. Karen Velline was "distressed" by this, documents state, and decided all of her husband's business assets, memorabilia and collectibles should be put into a family trust. This was done June 27, 2015, the same day she named Jennifer Velline as Vee's guardian and conservator of his estate.
Three weeks later, Karen Velline - without the ability to speak due to a breathing tube - wrote a note stating her opposition to the play production and requested removing Jeffrey Velline as Vee's attorney. Karen Velline died two weeks later. A week after her death, Robert and Jennifer Velline learned there would be a first reading of the play in January 2016. Production revenues were to be divided between the playwright, the theater and Rockhouse. Opening night was in October, as was Vee's death.
The dispute continued and an attorney representing Vee and Karen Velline for 30 years advised the children that the intent in creating the trust was to benefit the children and grandchildren, not Rockhouse.
The siblings are all equal beneficiaries of Vee's estate and trustees of the trust.
Jeffrey and Thomas Velline diverted trust assets and interests for their own personal benefit and for the benefit of Rockhouse in contracting with the history theater. A final contract of the production was never provided by the brothers, despite repeated requests for a copy as well as an accounting of the revenues from the performances.
Jennifer and Robert Velline are asking the court to require Jeffrey and Thomas Velline to provide accounting of all income, retirement accounts and revenues generated from the play and during the times Jeffrey Velline was attorney. The petition also asks to remove the two brothers as co-trustees on terms of breaching trust.
They also accuse their siblings of taking silver and gold records, guitars, autographed posters, pictures and books that belong to the trust for the use of promoting Rockhouse.
In response to the petition, Jeffrey and Thomas Velline filed a complaint claiming that their mother tried to change Vee's estate planning choices and her intent cannot substitute for Vee's when it comes to unanimous decisions. They don't believe their mother had the legal ability to control or restrict the play production and claim the trust from June is not valid. Ultimately the brothers have asked the court to dismiss the petition and they deny any allegations made by their siblings.