The great-granddaughter of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination in 1914 triggered the First World War, intends to keep up a legal fight for his one-time castle outside Prague, Agence France-Presse is reporting.
A Czech court on Tuesday ruled against an application from Princess Sophie von Hohenberg for the return of Konopiste castle, which was seized in 1921 by the then-nascent Czech republic, the wire service reports.
“The constitutional court has ruled several times that it is impossible to widen the interpretation of the law of restitution” that applies to property seized when Communist rule began in February 1948, the court stated.
Jaroslav Broz, lawyer for the 49-year-old princess, said Sophie would appeal the ruling in order to win back possession of the white French-style castle that is set in woodlands and open to the public for part of the year, according to Agence France-Presse.
Konopiste was Franz Ferdinand’s home when he travelled to Sarajevo in June 1914 where he was shot and killed in his car by Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip, sparking a chain of events that ignited the Great War.
The castle was initially constructed as a Gothic fortification in the 13th century. Ferdinand, who was heir to the long-serving Franz Joseph I, bought it in 1887 and rebuilt it into a luxurious residence, which he preferred to his official residence in Vienna.
He invited Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany to see his roses early in June 1914. Conspiracy buffs have theorized that they discussed plans for an an attack on Serbia. Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were killed by Princip in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.
The bullet that Princip used to kill Ferdinand is on display in the castle.
More than a few South Financial Group shareholders must have been scratching their heads late Tuesday, after watching the company’s stock fall an astounding 20 percent, to $1.54 a share.
It’s not that South Financial stock hasn’t been in a free-fall for most of the past year, but the company had finally confirmed Lynn Harton as its permanent president and chief executive.
So, what gives?
Part of the problem may be that traders and investors nationwide were concerned about what they saw as a lack of specifics from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on how the government will direct more than $1 trillion in public and private support to the nation’s financial system. Bank stocks were particularly hard hit by this lack of confidence Tuesday.
But another factor may have been this report originally posted on RealMoney that appeared online Tuesday. Titled “Commercial Real Estate Outlook Sours for Banks,” it listed a handful of large banks with heavy nonperforming commercial real estate exposure. One of the institutions listed was South Financial subsidiary Carolina First Bank.
RealMoney’s Philip van Doorn summed up Carolina First’s situation in three paragraphs:
“Carolina First Bank of Greenville, S.C. (the main subsidiary of The South Financial Group) is new to the list, with a ratio of nonperforming CRE and CCL to total assets of 2.30% and a total nonperforming assets ratio of 3.38% as of Dec. 31. The bank lost $542 million during 2008, mainly from $426 million in goodwill writedowns.
“The holding company said ‘completed income property and commercial development accounted for approximately half of the increase in nonperforming loans’ during the fourth quarter.
“Carolina First Bank reported $223 million in total net charge-offs for 2008, or 1.73% of average loans, and the institution’s reserves kept well ahead of this pace, with loan loss reserves covering 2.41% of total loans as of Dec. 31. The holding company’s TARP infusion of $347 million on Dec. 5 helped bring the bank’s capital ratios to their highest levels in many years, despite the continued losses.”
The report was interesting in that it focused on Carolina First, not Mercantile Bank, South Financial’s Florida subsidiary. (Editor’s note: Thank you to Mr. Truth for pointing out that South Financial’s Florida offices operate under the Mercantile Bank name, which is part of Carolina First Bank.) South Financial has identified Florida’s struggling real estate market as a trouble spot for the company.
It’ll be interesting to see how the company’s stock fares the rest of the week and whether Tuesday’s precipitous decline was a one-time event or a harbinger of things to come.