Delaware Court Helped Decide Fate of Former Presidential Yacht - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Court Helped Decide Fate of Former Presidential Yacht

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GEORGETOWN, Del. -- Delaware's unique Court of Chancery has decided in a number of cases over the years for businesses and individuals alike, though it played a role in deciding the future of a former presidential yacht that had fallen into disrepair.

Following years of contentious legal action to determine the ownership and price of the vessel, Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock ruled last year that Washington D.C.-based firm F.E. Partners could purchase the U.S.S. Sequoia for zero dollars. Constructed under, President Herbert Hoover, the yacht was used for decades by presidents like Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon.

The yacht was later sold under Jimmy Carter and then exchanged over the years, most recently being used some years ago as a vessel for private charters. It was then pulled of the water for maintenance several years ago but has remained in dry dock in Deltaville, Virginia.

Photos and video footage of the boat have shown it has suffered significant damage. The ship's captain, Matthew Vilbas, recorded footage of the boat that showed raccoons had nested in the vessel. Vilbas did not respond to phone calls from WBOC seeking comment for the story.

Damage to the boat was a key portion of the case decided in November, said Georgetown Attorney John Brady, a longtime lawyer who has participated and observed Chancery Court proceedings.

"The analysis was that it's sitting now in dry dock, not really gaining value but losing value because some of the things that need to be done, haven't been done yet," he said.

A filing following the November decision by F.E. Partners claimed the ship was worth even less---millions of dollars---than the $0 price tag offered in 2012.

A representative for F.E. Partners said the boat has been shrink-wrapped and secured. The firm intends to bring the boat to New England for restoration work that could take years.

Because of incorporation laws, Delaware's Court of Chancery has settled disputes for many businesses, groups, and people over the years. Being a court of equity, Brady said the fact that the Sequoia was the center of a Chancery Court case was not surprising.

"You get two people fighting over the same thing because of the uniqueness," he said. "The court will sometimes act as Solomon, as referenced in this case, and divide everything in half."

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