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Family feuds over control of Olde Mistick Village and Groton Plaza Court

The descendants of Martin Olson, the shopping center mogul behind the decades-old development of Olde Mistick Village in Stonington and Long Hill Road's Groton Plaza Court, are locked in battle in Probate Court over control of two of the region's major retail centers.

Only one of Olson's children is still alive, 85-year-old Joyce Olson Resnikoff, and the children of her siblings are trying to wrest from her control of the trusts created by her father, which still own the two shopping centers and are meant to benefit generations of his heirs.

They claim in motions in Probate Court and in a related lawsuit in Superior Court that Resnikoff and her son, Christopher Regan, have been "self-dealing" from the management of the trusts, with Regan's management company being given lucrative contracts without any competitive bidding.

There are payments being made to Regan that are "unnecessary, unjustified" or for projects not completed in a "workmanlike manner," the cousins, who are trust beneficiaries, claim in one motion.

The motions in Probate Court also claim that Resnikoff has made improper distributions of property from the trusts to her son.

Resnikoff's nieces and nephews also are trying to stop their aunt from selling the principal assets of the trusts, $21.5 million for Olde Mistick Village and $7.1 million for Groton Plaza, to her son. The deals are set out in separate purchase and sales contracts, which Resnikoff and Regan have signed.

The properties have not been put on the open market and were not properly assessed, the motions say.

Motions to stop the sales and to remove Resnikoff as principal trustee of the trusts that own the centers are scheduled to be heard in a trial beginning June 1 in Probate Court in New London.

I left a message for Regan's attorney, Robert Tobin of New London, but never heard back from him.

When I called the office at Olde Mistick Village, Resnikoff picked up the ringing phone and answered my questions.

Asked about the charges in the lawsuit about her overpaying her son, Resnikoff told me she and he work very hard seven days a week.

When I asked about the claim by her nieces and nephews that they are being shortchanged as beneficiaries of the trusts, she said their parents already received a lot of money from her father's estate.

When I asked her to leave a message for her son that he could call me if he wanted to comment on the court actions, she said that wouldn't be necessary, that she was the trustee and she would be the person to talk about it.

Resnikoff previously had been joined in management of her father's trust by a co-trustee, her brother Jerry Olson, who died in 2019. Her other brother, Martin, died in 2020.

Some of the motions in Probate Court allege Resnikoff continued to manage the trusts on her own after the death of Jerry Olson, despite a requirement that there be a co-trustee.

"Joyce Resnikoff has been left unchecked in her fiduciary duties for many years and has acted in her or her children's best interest with little regard to her duties under the law and as the trustee," a motion from the cousins asserts.

Lacking a co-trustee after the death of her brother Jerry Olson, one motion asserts, Resnikoff attempted to take her older brother, the elderly Martin Olson, to a bank near his home in Maine to have someone there notarize his signature on a document.

The transaction was stopped, according to the court filing, when Martin's lawyer was alerted to what was happening and drove to the bank to stop it.

The Probate Court in New London is returning to some post-COVID-19 normalcy, and the June 1 trial will be held in person in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.

I would think they could probably sell tickets and popcorn for what may be the opening public volleys of the region's most prominent family feud.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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