Father-son Property Fight Lands In Court Joseph And Stephen Samost, Two Major South Jersey Developers, Are Feuding Over Property Ownership.

Posted: August 04, 1998

Joseph and Stephen Samost, the father and son who are among South Jersey's most prominent developers, are waging a legal war against each other.

Joseph Samost has sued his son, arguing the son was laying claim to property that is rightfully the father's.

The holdings are vast: The Samosts are among the best-known developers in South Jersey and have been involved in commercial and residential development in Medford, Voorhees, Mount Laurel and Evesham, among other places and are worth about $100 million, according to a court document.

They have built thousands of homes and millions of square feet of commercial space, including the Sturbridge and Highpoint residential developments in Voorhees and the Centennial, Highbridge and Medford Chase residential developments in Medford.

Joseph Samost of Philadelphia and Stephen Samost of Vorhees, as well as other relatives, including Joseph's daughters (and Stephen's sisters) Linda and Ellen, attended a Superior Court hearing at Burlington County Historic Courthouse yesterday.

The daughters are siding with their father and are named as plaintiffs in the suit against their brother. None of the Samosts would talk to reporters after the hearing.

The father and son did not exchange words during the proceeding. Stephen Samost, a lawyer himself, sat with his attorney and scribbled notes on a yellow legal pad. He did not show emotion.

His father, who walks with a four-footed cane, sat in the gallery and talked to his attorney, Francis Hartman, and to his daughters in a stage whisper in reaction to points the attorneys made.

In an interview, Hartman portrayed his client as a shrewd businessman (``The father's a tough man. He's cantankerous.'') who is the victim of a greedy son. ``Here is a young man at 36 years old who doesn't say anywhere that he put up one dollar on his own,'' Hartman said.

The dispute that led to the lawsuit - filed last month, about the same time Stephen Samost moved out of the Berlin office he had shared with his father for more than a decade - centers on the ownership of property they developed.

Like many developers, the Samosts set up different corporations to own different properties. Joseph Samost contends that some holdings were put in the son's name for tax reasons, but actually belong to the family.

Peter Boyer, Stephen Samost's attorney, said the property is listed as his client's in tax filings and on bank-loan applications.

``The parties should control what they've told the world they control,'' Boyer said.

Properties owned in part by companies known as Hartford Arms, Sheffield and Pachoango are in dispute. Joseph Samost claims he and his son each own 40 percent of those companies. His daughters each own 10 percent.

At the two-hour hearing, Judge Myron H. Gottleib ruled that Stephen Samost could make deals involving the disputed land and cash in any certificates of deposits in his own name.

For the last two weeks, a temporary restraining order had prevented such actions.

Joseph Samost and his attorneys had asked the judge to continue to forbid the sale of the contested properties and also to force the son to let the father have certain business documents. The judge gave both sides the right to access legal and financial documents pertaining to the properties in question.

The next step in the litigation is a hearing Friday on a motion filed by Stephen Samost that would prevent his father and sisters from representing themselves as owners of the properties in dispute.

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