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Abegg v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue

decided: July 14, 1970.


Waterman, Friendly and Hays, Circuit Judges.

Author: Friendly

FRIENDLY, Circuit Judge:

These two appeals from a decision of the Tax Court, 50 T.C. 145, one by the taxpayer and the other by the Commissioner, concern a series of transactions in which Werner Abegg, a Swiss citizen, liquidated one wholly-owned personal holding company and transferred all its assets, plus other securities in substantial amount, to another personal holding company. Although the appeals relate to different tax years and present independent legal issues, there is a sufficient identity in the dramatis personae to make it convenient to state all the facts at the outset.

I. The Facts

Hevaloid Corporation was organized under the laws of Delaware in 1938. All its issued stock, 250 shares, was held by Abegg. It owned industrial patents and machinery which it leased to various American corporations. In 1955 the patents expired and it sold the machinery. In 1956 and 1957 it was a personal holding company; its assets consisted exclusively of cash, securities, receivables, and rights in a motion picture "Guest in the House." In 1957, Robert A. Cavin, a close associate and business adviser of Abegg for many years, was its president.

On March 28, 1957, Hevaloid adopted a plan of complete liquidation and dissolution. A certificate of dissolution was filed on April 18. During April and May it sold stock in four publicly owned corporations for $1,671,341, which it deposited in the New York Trust Company. These sales represented a gain of $932,701. Hevaloid reported them in its 1957 income tax return but claimed that the gain was not to be recognized under I.R.C. ยง 337. On May 1 and 2 it drew checks to Abegg on its account at New York Trust Company aggregating $1,660,936. On May 7 it delivered to Laird & Co., a New York brokerage firm, for Abegg's account, certificates and stock powers for 7,470 shares of Brazos River Gas Company, 2,720 shares of Medallion Petroleum Limited, and 13,692 shares of Producing Properties, Inc. On May 23 it directed Laird & Co. to transfer from the account of Hevaloid to the account of Abegg 1,945 shares of Magma Copper Company and 2,600 shares of Signal Oil and Gas Company; on the same day it also transferred to Abegg its interest in a loan receivable from Perosa Corporation and in the motion picture. The final step in its liquidation was taken in December 1957 by drawing to Abegg a $32,156 check on another bank. Abegg deposited all these checks in his account at Bankers Trust Company.

Cresta Corporation, S.A., originally known as Suvretta Corporation, S.A., was incorporated in Panama in 1941 but remained inactive. On May 7, 1957, it issued 1,000 shares of stock to Abegg in return for cash and other assets, as follows: On May 7, 1957, Abegg issued to it a $1,500,000 check on his account at Bankers Trust Company, $250,000 of which was considered a demand loan and $1,250,000 as part payment for stock. On May 24, Laird & Co., on Abegg's instruction, transferred to Cresta in further payment the five securities that Hevaloid had ordered it to transfer to him earlier that month. The fair market value of each security exceeded its adjusted basis; the aggregate excess was $262,520. The same day Abegg transferred stock of Illinois Central R. R., Olin Mathiesen Chemical Corporation, additional common shares and a note of Brazos River Gas Company, preferred stock and bonds of Producing Properties, Inc., 1,000 shares of Perosa Corporation, which were regarded as valueless, and 3,000 shares of Meridan Corporation, a Rhode Island corporation in which he owned 50

of the stock and Cavin 10%. Meridan had a net worth of $2,510,673 as of December 31, 1957. Nearly sixty per cent of this represented a piano business in Michigan; it also had an interest in an operating company in Chicago and later acquired one in a company in Tacoma, Washington. On June 8 Abegg transferred to Cresta the interest in "Guest in the House" and in the debt from Perosa Corporation which Hevaloid had assigned.

The directors of Cresta, including Abegg and Cavin, met on February 6, 1958, in New York and resolved to qualify to do business in that state, to accept cash and securities from Abegg as contributions to capital, and to borrow an additional $250,000 from him on open account. Abegg drew a check for $400,000 and on February 26, 1958, contributed stock as follows:


Adjusted Market

Basic Value


Brazos River Gas Co. ...

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