Transferring assets

Two teens are shuttled back and forth across the country as their mother and father (belatedly) fight over who gets to keep them

Jim seemed to reel from those legal assaults and others. By 1991, he'd already spent $350,000 on attorneys and accountants with "no effort, to this date, made by Theresa Crane to settle," he said in court documents.

Egos and assets were definitely on the line, although the case file reflects no apparent efforts by Jim to claim what usually triggers such fierce wars: custody of the children. Through his goodness or guilt -- or the offensive mounted by Theresa -- the Cranes reached agreement in April 1991. She got the kids, the house, a note from him for about $700,000, about $500,000 in cash and $2,500 monthly support payments each for Jared and Krystal.

He received standard visitation rights. In a recent appearance on the witness stand, he tried to tell a jury that the agreed settlement thrust him back into poverty -- leaving him only with his clothes, a car and a "million-dollar note" to Theresa.

Attorney Joan Jenkins, who represented the kids, argued for Jared's return to his mother.
Attorney Joan Jenkins, who represented the kids, argued for Jared's return to his mother.

Oh, yes, and the business. When Eagle went public in 1996, it showed that the crying hankies weren't needed. Securities and Exchange filings show Crane, for example, pulled in $12.3 million from an early stock sale, one of many such transactions. As late as last December, he unloaded more shares to reap $11.7 million. Eagle Global chalked up nearly $600 million in revenues last year. It has more than 3,000 employees and some 90 domestic and international offices.

In a 1992 note under the letterhead carrying all the full weight and authority of the then Eagle USA corporate emblem, Jim lets Theresa know he's pissed, mightily.

She's informed him that Jared no longer wants to play on the little league team coached by him. His note says he knows otherwise. If the boy doesn't stay on the team, "I will be left with no other alternative than to pursue this issue legally."

Apparently, the threat of kids' league litigation keeps the boy playing. The court record shows a similar 1994 corporate letterhead correspondence from Jim Crane detailing his latest furor. Jared had called at 5:25 p.m. asking him for a ride to the 6 p.m. game because Theresa was too busy to take him there. "Further, I offered to pay for a cab to take Jared to his games which you denied him, stating I would not pay for the cab."

In later questioning by his attorneys, Theresa admits that children who played with Jared when he was at Jim's house were not welcome at her house.

And on and on. Flare-ups were frequent over visitation and the most minor of bills. Theresa labeled the contact from her ex harassment and attempts at intimidation, while Jim says he tried positive communications with a woman who was impossible to deal with.

In 1995, Theresa says, she had all she could take -- of her ex and of Houston. She and the kids bailed out for the Boulder Colorado area, enraging Jim. That surprise move violated the custody arrangement and began the current round of court actions aimed at finding her in contempt and curtailing her rights over the children.

Theresa says she only wanted to get the children away from the increasing crime and big city perils of Houston, although the relocation also distanced them from Jim. She also was moving from the fairly mundane life of a homemaker, even an affluent one, and into explorations of her outer world and inner self.

"The Houston lifestyle had been the country club, nice cars and the rest of that," she says. "I'd accomplished those things in my life, but I realized there was so much more to living. I tried to move increasingly into self-awareness, that the inside is what is most important."

Her search included studies of various Eastern religions and meditation. She gradually engaged in various environmental causes. She helped in a movement geared toward establishing domed retreats on Indians reservations, as a retreat for Anglos wanting to know more about Native American ways, their religions and harmony with the land.

Where she went, the kids often followed. Her daughter stayed with her in an Indian settlement in Canada.

Jim's life changed in its own way. He met Dallas native Francigene "Franci" Neely Beck, an attorney with an influential Houston civil firm, and married her in 1993. Not long after that, the tension escalated over educational choices made by Theresa for the children. The parents clashed over the use of tutors, the choice and changes in schools, and visitation schedules.

Philosophical differences stretched into huge angry gulfs. Jim accused her repeatedly of alienating the kids, even of telling Krystal that he had affairs during their marriage. Theresa says the daughter asked her about them. "I don't think lies to children is a good way to develop a relationship."

As their grades in school declined, didn't she push them to do better? "I don't like the word 'pushing.' I help them. I don't push anyone. I love and encourage them," Theresa testified later. She told of her fears that Jim and Franci were scheming to get custody to ship the children to overseas boarding schools.

A new car for Jared arrived from Jim, with the stipulation that he keep his grades up. Theresa says it only led to swearing matches over the telephone when the father would "berate" his son for academic problems. She says she believes a gift should be just that -- given without strings attached. As to why she didn't enforce Jim's edict on the car, Theresa says, "I gave discipline and structure; I didn't give threats."

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