Death of Texas tycoon James Cotter leads to estate issues

Real estate tycoon and cowboy extraordinaire James Cotter died as he lived, sowing confusion among the people he loved.

Since his death from cardiac arrest Jan. 25, 2017, his estate has been the subject of much dispute and legal maneuvering among his surviving widow, five children, his lenders, creditors and the IRS.

The San Antonio Express-News reports James Cotter died at 83 without a valid will. The bulk of his estate, valued at about $288 million 13 months before his death, comprises a vast real estate empire of 66 properties in six states. In San Antonio, it includes the twin Alamo Towers along Northeast Loop 410 and the two Petroleum Towers just around the corner on Tesoro Drive.

After James Cotter’s death, Bexar County Probate Judge Tom Rickhoff appointed San Antonio attorney Marcus Rogers as the independent administrator to oversee the estate. Rogers called it “the case of a lifetime” but would not discuss it further, saying he considered it a family matter.

The probate case is further complicated by the fact that the Cotter companies’ books were left in disarray, Rogers noted in a March court filing. The balance sheets reflect “substantial intercompany-related accounts that did not balance and had not been reconciled for what appears to be many years,” he said. As a result, Rogers added, “balance sheets cannot be relied upon to represent the true book value of the assets, liabilities and equity accounts.” The loans on the real estate were personally guaranteed by Cotter, so his death “resulted in an event of default on virtually every mortgage,” one court document reads.

The companies that own Petroleum Towers, Alamo Towers and a 36-story Cotter Ranch Tower office building in Oklahoma City, considered the Cotter portfolio’s crown jewel, were put into bankruptcy after his death. The latter two bankruptcies were filed to stop lenders from foreclosing on the properties.


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