Family Settles Feud Over Fla. Citrus Company

A settlement reached Sunday ended a lawsuit that former State Rep. Baxter Troutman filed more than three years ago against State Sen. J.D. Alexander and his father over how they had run the family company.

A legal battle that pitted two grandsons of a Florida citrus baron against one another is coming to an end for now.

A settlement reached Sunday ended a lawsuit that former State Rep. Baxter Troutman filed more than three years ago against State Sen. J.D. Alexander and his father over how they had run the family company.

J.D. Alexander is the powerful budget chairman of the state Senate who is behind a push to break off a branch campus of the University of South Florida in Lakeland. The bill to create the state's 12th public university is expected to be sent to Gov. Rick Scott later this month.

Troutman's lawsuit filed in October 2008 contended that Alexander — along with his father John R. Alexander — had mismanaged the family company Alico Inc. by pursuing a potential merger with another family-owned company.

Under the terms of the settlement Troutman agreed to drop the lawsuit, but he received no payment for doing so.

Alexander's attorney said the settlement proved the lawsuit was frivolous and that J.D. Alexander had been "vindicated." He noted the settlement was reached on the eve of a hearing in the case.

That was echoed by Sen. Alexander.

"It makes it clear that there were just no basis to the claims," Alexander said.

Troutman, who was in the Florida House from 2002 to 2010, said he dropped the lawsuit to protect the interests of the shareholders of Alico, the agriculture and land management company once controlled by the late Ben Hill Griffin Jr.

Griffin was a wealthy citrus magnate and cattle rancher whose name is on the University of Florida stadium.

Troutman said settlement negotiations started months ago and that he told family members he would drop the lawsuit if J.D. Alexander gave up his post as president and chief executive officer of Atlantic Blue Group, which is the controlling shareholder of Alico. Alexander gave up that post last month after he was named full-time president and CEO of Alico.

He disputed the notion that the settlement had vindicated his cousin.

"They can say whatever they want," Troutman said.

Alexander said that Alico spent as much as $2 million on the litigation. His attorney said that there's a chance that Alico may seek that money back from Troutman but Troutman doubted the legal merits of such a case.

This isn't the first time that there has been a feud between members of the Griffin clan. There was a fight more than a decade ago among heirs of Griffin over how the family estate was divided. That round of lawsuits included Katherine Harris, the former member of Congress who was secretary of state at the time of the chaotic 2000 presidential recount. Harris is a cousin of Alexander.

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