Family finds old stock certificate, says Coke owes them $130 million


If the first way Americans believe they will get rich is through sweat, perseverance and hard work, the second is probably finding a winning lottery ticket in an old coat, or something similarly lucky.

The family of Tony Marohn is seemingly in the second camp.

Marohn’s family in California is in a legal battle with Coca-Cola, saying a stock certificate he bought at an estate sale in 2008 is worth $130 million in stock of the soft-drink maker, Reuters reported. Marohn died in 2010.

The certificate, issued in 1917, for stock in the long-defunct Palmer Union Oil Co., should translate into 1.8 million shares of Coke, the family contends. The relationship of Coke to Palmer Union is murky at best, according to Coke documents. It appears Palmer Union merged with a company that then merged with Coke, though the soft drink maker said in a court filing “to the best of the company’s knowledge shares of Palmer Union Oil were never convertible for shares of The Coca-Cola Company.”

The case is being heard in Delaware. During previous oral arguments, Judge Leo Strine Jr., called the family’s case “a new version of the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’” referring to the television show about country bumpkins who discover oil on their property and become instantly wealthy.

Reuters says that if the family is somehow able to win, they would end up being one of the largest non-institutional investors in the company.

That’s a pretty big if, according to Bob Kerstein. He runs the website, which researches the value of old stock certificates.

“I’m not an attorney, but common sense says if you find something in a garage or buy it at an estate sale or whatever and it’s 70 or 80 years old, then it doesn’t pass the test,” he said.

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