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Foppiano Siblings Settle

Battling brother and sister come to agreement over management of family trust

Mitch Frank
Posted: December 23, 2011

Louis M. Foppiano and his sister Susan Valera have agreed to disagree. After two days of testimony in a Sonoma courtroom where Valera was suing to remove her brother from the family trust that controls Foppiano Vineyards, the two parties came to a settlement. Both Foppiano and Valera will step down as co-trustees and allow the judge to appoint an independent third party with wine experience to manage the trust.

Founded in 1896, Foppiano is Sonoma's oldest family-run winery, best known for its Petite Sirahs. Foppiano took over management from his father, Lou Sr., almost a decade ago. As first reported in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Valera and her husband accused Lou Jr. of taking out sizable loans, with the trust as collateral, and using some of the money for executive bonuses. Foppiano countered that the money was part of a agreed-upon plan to upgrade the winery. That plan became far more expensive when the recession hit sales badly.

Both sides will submit suggested third parties to the judge by Jan. 15. The judge can also make his own selection.

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