Among those whose stakes the club has asked to nullify are heirs of Arthur I. Appleton, a prominent Ocala horse breeder who died in 2008.
A number of heirs have shot back with objections and counterclaims.
Stanley Whitman, the 94-year-old owner and developer of Bal Harbour Shops, reopened his mother’s estate in order to battle for a share of the pie.
Court papers say Leona E. Whitman, a founding member, switched to inactive status in February 1983 while keeping her equity interest. She died 10 months later.
As an heir to inactive proprietor certificate No. 3, Stanley Whitman saw his family’s long-held stake canceled without getting so much as a beach towel.
“This lawsuit is nothing more than an action to make sure that my mother’s estate gets paid for her pro-rata share,” Whitman said.
In court papers, Zarco argues Whitman’s inactive membership was never properly transferred to her heirs.
Zarco has hammered out individual settlements with half of 24 parties over inactive membership certificates. Terms are confidential.
Those settling include heirs of James Deering Danielson, whose family built Vizcaya and the Charles Deering Estate.
Separately settling with the club were the heirs of the late Mary Belle Smathers. Her deceased husband, Frank Smathers, was a Miami banker and philanthropist who gave his sprawling estate on Old Cutler Road, Smathers Four Fillies Farm, to the University of Miami.
Also settling recently was Mary Jane Hunt, who had leveled the harshest claims, including allegations of a fraudulent scheme including Zarco and the club’s board to sell discounted memberships to people with ties to board members in anticipation of a merger.
Hunt received an inactive membership from her mother, Elizabeth S. Hunt, who died in 2001. Elizabeth and her husband George H. Hunt Jr. were horse breeders in Marion County.
Zarco said he insisted Hunt dismiss fraud allegations before the club would consider settling, which she did. The settlement pertained only to the question of whether an inactive member should get a payout, he said.
The dismissed allegations said the club’s board — including Mary Anne Shula — sold proprietor memberships to her acquaintances “with the insider knowledge of an upcoming offer to sell.”
The dismissed claims also alleged that Zarco and his brother, Isidoro Zarco, got discounted memberships.
Zarco said he received his April 2011 membership in exchange for legal services and paid full price. “The club couldn’t afford to pay me,” he said.
Zarco said his brother joined the club at his urging and paid $75,000, the going rate at the time, as the club scrambled to raise funds. “My brother did not get one penny discount,” he said.
He said no memberships were sold in anticipation of a merger.
The attorney general got involved because some heirs haven’t been located. The court recently granted the attorney general’s request to appoint a guardian ad litem to protect the interests of the “John Does.’’
The guardian ad litem is tasked with tracking down unknown heirs of deceased club members like Baron Walter Langer Von Langendorff. According to his obituary in The New York Times, the Austrian-born chemist built a perfume empire with White Shoulders and other scents and died in 1983.