We shouldn’t be terribly surprised to see media reports of high profile families using the courts to hang out their dirty laundry for all the world to see now that Jupiter, first of the social planets, inhabits Scorpio, the sign of death and inheritance.
The legal battle around the legacy of billionaire Douglas Tompkins, who died while kayaking in Chile two years ago, exhibits all the key elements of Jupiter’s behavior when in the sign of Scorpio, and then some. Tompkins, co-founder of The North Face and Esprit, after devoting his winter years to acquiring and preserving some two million acres of open space in Chile and Argentina, has likely been turning over in his grave for the past year since one of his daughters filed suit in LA County’s Superior Court to contest his estate.
San Francisco socialite, Summer Tomkins Walker, younger daughter of the deceased, is so miffed about being left out of Daddy’s will that she’s involved legal systems on two continents in a quest to acquire a piece of the pie. Her older sister is not a party to either lawsuit. Summer has referred to her father’s decision to leave the entirety of his estate to his second wife as an “insult.” She even went so far to refer to her father as “rotting in the ground, as we speak.” (Tompkin’s second wife, Kristine McDivitt, whom he entrusted with fulfilling the charitable purposes of his trust, cut her teeth on the great outdoors and its ethics with Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, serving as CEO there until the early 1990’s.)
Beliefs (Jupiter’s territory) and legacy (Scorpio’s territory) both figure prominently in this family saga. Tompkins went public about inheritances with a Chilean interviewer prior to his accidental death: “I don’t think that inheritances are good for the upbringing of children. That stunts people’s development, it does not motivate them to grow, to develop themselves.” He earmarked his entire fortune for the creation and preservation of eight national parks in Argentina and Chile.
Suffice it to say, Tompkins and his socialite daughter had a complicated relationship, Summer’s lavish tastes and materialistic lifestyle the antithesis of Tompkin’s ethic. Her 1997 nuptials to Brooks Walker III, which cost some $3 Million and was featured in People Magazine, positioned her firmly in San Francisco’s gentry. Already wealthy by most standards, Summer is going to extreme lengths to secure what she considers her fair share of Daddy’s money. If casting a shadow over father’s memory and legacy is a means to her endgame, so be it. His honorary citizenship in Chile, bestowed post-humously for his conservation work there, in addition to his choice to live in Chile instead of the USA, have become strands in the legal web Summer has mounted against her father’s trust.
The Jupiter in Scorpio plot thickened last month when Summer lost her first legal battle in California, where bequests to children are not mandated. She appealed that decision and initiated a separate lawsuit in Chile a week ago, hoping that the legal system there will look more kindly upon the legal claims of offspring. Not only is there a huge amount of money at stake, but Tompkin’s estate trustees believe that Summer is “out to deliberately imperil” her father’s philanthropy. Summer counters that her father created a “spider’s web” to prevent his children from benefiting from his legacy.
The fact that the case is both being appealed in California and in line for adjudication on foreign soil will no doubt ensure a lengthy legal process. Perhaps by the end of Jupiter’s term in Scorpio a year from now we’ll hear of a decision. For now, in typical Jupiter style, a whole lot of money is being spent to decide the fate of a whole lot of money.
Meanwhile, Summer’s older sister Quincey, an officer of one of their father’s charities, The Foundation for Deep Ecology, sits in good stead no matter how how the lawsuits are decided. If Little Sis loses, Deep Ecology’s goals are supported; If Little Sis wins, Quincey could join the queue for some of her father’s estate. Either way, family relationships are bound to be feeling the strain.
So is there dignity in death? The jury’s still out. For the sake of open space in South America, we can only hope.