Lessons Learned from Ray Danner’s Estate Troubles

March 24, 2010by Hoy Grimm0

Back in the 1950s, Ray Danner and Alex Shoenbaum founded the restaurant business that eventually became Shoney’s. At its peak with more than 1,500 stores, Shoney’s was one of the largest restaurant chains in America. One of Shoney’s restaurants, Captain D’s, is named for Mr. Danner.

When Mr. Danner passed away in September 2008, the 83-year-old businessman left a sizeable estate to his wife and four children. Unfortunately, he also left a complicated mess of business dealings that have yet to be resolved. His son, Ray Danner, Jr., is the executor in charge of Mr. Danner’s estate.

In an effort to collect several unpaid loans that the elder Danner made to various businesses, the younger Danner filed a number of lawsuits this past January in a Nashville court.

The East Tennessee community has connections to this situation as the elder Danner was the lead investor in a group of automotive businesses that included Neill Sandler Ford and a local auto parts store. Anyone who drives down Alcoa Highway knows that the Ford dealership is no longer there, but few people could have foreseen the depth of troubles it created for Mr. Danner’s heirs. For more information about this financial litigation,click:


According to the lawsuits, the elder Danner apparently loaned large sums of money to various businesses, such as the ones listed above in this article. Although the transactions were properly documented, the counterparties now allege that Mr. Danner frequently overlooked the terms of the loans and did not demand repayment unless they were profitable. So, millions of dollars have not been repaid to date.

This provokes a few observations. Did his business dealings need to be this complicated to be successful? At 80-plus years of age, was it really necessary to be taking on that much risk? Did he even understand what he was doing? Although Mr. Danner had a number of attorneys and financial advisers, did he have any close associates who could “talk straight” with Mr. Danner or his family?

LeConte Wealth Management has a saying at the company, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” In this scenario, “drunk” is referring to over-indulgent behavior—not alcohol.

What aspect of your own life would benefit from a serious reality check? Are you taking too much risk for your age and net worth? Can you quantify your financial risks? Is your financial and/or business life drowning in unnecessary financial clutter? Do you have a trusted adviser keeping you on the straight and narrow?

LeConte Wealth Management prides itself on its ethics and trustworthy personal relationships with its clients while focusing on keeping clients grounded.

Hoy Grimm

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