Image of an ice cream

Ice cream tycoon’s first wife wins inheritance battle against his widow

The ex-wife and children of a man with a successful ice cream business have won a High Court inheritance battle over a significant slice of his fortune.

Ernesto Colicci, the successful business owner, passed away from Covid almost 40 years after creating the ice cream business in London with his first wife, Josephine Colicci.

Ms Colicci won a High Court battle for a £1.6 million stake in his £4.9 million fortune, which was left to his second spouse, Nora Grinberg, in the first instance.

Colicci’s business, ECSI Limited, started up not long after they left Italy to move to the UK in 1982. The wife argued that her ex-husband’s shares should pass onto their children, Robert and Rosanna Colicci.

Ernesto’s widow Nora Grinberg argued that they should pass to her. The judge said:

“The claim is based on a contract between Ernesto and the claimants made by deed on 1st June 2016 (the 2016 Deed), in which Ernesto and Josephine covenanted that any Shares they still held in the Company when they died would pass to Robert and Rosanna.

Ernesto did not comply with this promise, but made a will dated 12th April 2017 which left his Shares to Nora. By this claim, the claimants seek to enforce the 2016 Deed.

Nora’s answer is that the 2016 Deed ceased in force when the same parties made a new written agreement on 1st March 2017 (the 2017 Agreement). The claimants say that the 2017 Agreement left the 2016 Deed in force, alternatively that the 2017 Agreement should be rectified to that end.”

When he passed away, he left his entire £4.75 million fortune to Ms Grinberg and their daughter, informing his children and first wife that they had already received enough money from him during his lifetime.

Ms Colicci sued her ex-husband’s widow, arguing that his £1.6million stake in the ice cream business should rightfully go to her children.

It’s also said that Ernesto left behind a “letter of wishes” making clear that he was writing Robert and Rosanna out of his will so that he could provide for Ms Grinberg. The letter explained:

“I love Roberto and Rosanna very much and my will is no reflection on how I feel about them.

I have provided both of them with significant financial funds in their lifetimes, and I have set them up with properties, rental properties, and provided them with careers.

They are independent adults now with financial security. I consider this more than sufficient financial provision for Roberto and Rosanna.”

The judge concluded:

“They had been so advised in Mr Gerver’s Shareholder Agreement Summary. For them, it would have made no sense to enter into an agreement in 2017 which cancelled the 2016 Deed.

Still less could I rely on this note (or, in light of its contents, any later pronouncements of Ernesto) as revealing what Ernesto had thought when he entered the 2017 Agreement. And it provides no support for any expression of accord with the claimants. So taken in the round, Ernesto’s instructions in December 2018 tell me nothing which would assist a claim for rectification.

For these reasons, if the 2017 Agreement, properly construed, means what the defendant contends it to mean, the remedy of rectification is not available to the claimants.”

Read full case here.

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