An oligarch who went from rags to riches at the age of 12 had his son removed from his will. He left most of the estate to his daughter, as he wasn’t literate and didn’t fully understand what he was signing.
Kevin Reeves was an orphan who lived in a convent and made his fortune as a property investor. By the time of his death aged 71 in 2019 he had a vast businesses and investment empire worth up to £100million.
He had previously planned to divide the majority of his fortune equally among his children Bill Reeves (47), a hairdresser Louise Reeves (35) and Lisa Murray (11). Lisa Murray did not meet her father until her 20s. His estranged son Mark Reeves, would receive smaller but more significant amounts.
However, the 2014 dramatic change saw the original will replaced with one that gave the majority of the estate back to Louise. Lisa received 20% and Louise got 80%.
Instead of receiving as much as £26.7m, Bill was left with only a handful of personal possessions worth about £200,000. Ryan, Mark’s 24-year-old brother, supports Bill’s lawsuit to get the will thrown out.
Louise Reeves, 35, was left 80% of her father Kevin’s £100million fortune after his death in 2019
Bill Reeves (47) is challenging the will, claiming a greater share of his father’s estate.
Bill claims the 2014 document is invalid because Louise exercised ‘undue influence’ over Kevin and ‘bullied’ him into giving her the bulk of the fortune – consisting of around £80m and a Rolls Royce Phantom.
The three week high-stakes High Court battle came to an end. Bill’s lawyer Constance McDonnell, QC stated that Kevin would have no idea what he was doing because he wouldn’t have been able read the document correctly.
She told the court that his literacy was so low, he misspelled Lisa’s name in three ways on one piece of paper.
The barrister stated that all evidence regarding Kevin’s literacy points to him being unable to read.
Kevin Reeves: From orphan to £100m property mogul
Kevin Reeves was a hard start in life. The court heard how he was orphaned and sent to a convent. He left school when he turned 12 years old with very limited literacy skills.
But through he ‘ingenuity and hard work’, he was able to raise up from these humble beginnings to build a £100million property empire based around Southampton.
Court described him as having a “tough exterior”, which was what made him an infamously strong negotiator. According to relatives, he was also a dedicated family man.
Reeves was able to make the most of his wealth to live a lavish lifestyle. He owned a number of luxury cars, including a Rolls Royce Phantom. He also took vacations to California and Las Vegas.
“The 2014 will was prepared on the assumption that Kevin knew enough to understand and read a cover letter and the draft will.
“It’s evident that Kevin was not able to write. Kevin was also unable spell words that were quite familiar, like his name and address.
Louise, who was a Toni and Guy hairdresser before she took over her father’s company after his passing, had earlier denied her father couldn’t read.
“He couldn’t have achieved the things he’d achieved without being capable of reading documents,” she said to the judge.
“People would have torn him off from left, right, or centre.” It’s absurd.
Louise McDonnell was accused of exerting ‘undue influences’ on her father. Ms McDonnell stated that Louise had proven herself to be a skilled manipulator with a strong streak.
According to the QC, “She attempted too hard to portray a sickly sweet relationship with her dad,”
Thomas Dumont QC, however, insisted on Louise’s claim that Kevin was able read the will and understood it before signing.
He said, “The fact that Kevin might have asked for an odd word to explain to him doesn’t prove illiteracy.”
It is actually a proof of your ability to read and understand a document or article in the newspaper.
Kevin Reeves, a boy who was left an orphan in a convent when he was a child, made a fortune investing in real estate despite having not received most of his formal education.
“It’s also important to keep in mind two aspects of Kevin’s personality: He would prefer people to undervalue him in business, and he was a master at getting people to do the right thing for him.
“That he may ask people to read to him is perfectly consistent with both these traits.”
He asked the judge for Kevin’s voice to be heard and charged Bill with having “effectively attempted to silence” him.
He said that Kevin created his wealth out of nothing, and that to give him control over what he does with it was a grave step.
The court had heard earlier that Kevin Reeves was a wealthy man through hard work and ingenuity. This despite him having left school at the age of 12 and been sent to a convent.
The case will be decided by Mr Justice Michael Green at a later date.