What a long, strange trip it’s been for Linda and Harry Macklowe, two of New York’s richest people, whose nearly 60-year-long marriage ended spectacularly in 2016.
Harry kicked off the end of things with a blind-side revelation that for the past few years, he’d kept a mistress in an apartment in one of the tony buildings he owns. The tabloids salivated; the pair, both nearing 80, married without a prenuptial agreement and then went on to own a considerable portion of Manhattan’s skyline at one time or another across Harry’s five-plus decades as a real estate developer.
The divorce kicked off with price tags on the marital estate estimated at a billion dollars, or maybe two billion, and then there was that art collection of Linda’s. Some thought that alone was worth a billion dollars.
Harry’s announcement came at the end of May, and reporters were quick to fill in details on what had happened. It turns out that Harry’s experience of his marriage had soured somewhat after the 2008 crash nearly bankrupted him, and cost him the crown jewel in his real estate empire, the General Motors Building.
Friends say that Linda was not compassionate to him in this low moment, blaming him for the debt-financed buying spree that his increasing appetite for risk had taken him on in 2007, and putting them in that position in the first place.
As Harry licked his wounds, Linda taunted him for his foolishness, and in 2011, at a dinner at a mutual friend’s home, Harry was seated next to a woman named Patricia Landeau. Patricia was 50-something, French, and the president of a charity, and they must have left some kind of an impression on each other.
Nothing happened right away, but a couple of years later, they ran into each other again. This time, the sparks were undeniable. By 2014, Patricia was living in a luxury apartment in Harry’s 737 Park Avenue building, and it was an open secret – if it was a secret at all – that the two were a couple.
When he finally told Linda about the relationship, he wasn’t coming clean or trying to apologize. He was telling his wife of 57 years that he was leaving, for good, to start over with his girlfriend of several years. At the end of the conversation, that’s exactly what he did.
Linda filed for divorce in June, and the normal early stage process plodded along. They clashed over who would appraise their property, fighting over whether to have one expert for each side, or to agree on a neutral appraiser whose valuations they would agree to accept.
In the end, they couldn’t agree to trust a neutral arbiter and each side hired their own teams, which would of course lead to trouble for the case down the road.
Dynamics within the Macklowe family took a hit as well. William “Billy” Macklowe has long been his father’s protege, and after the 2008 catastrophe, took a more prominent role in repping his dad’s company. This was largely to calm investors and potential lenders, giving the appearance that cooler heads, and cooler hands, were there to hold back Harry’s worst impulses.
The situation wasn’t tenable long term, and in 2010, William struck out on his own, apparently with his dad’s blessing. But in the wake of Harry’s departure from the marriage, he and William clashed to the point that Harry filed suit against his own son, alleging breach of fiduciary duties and other professional failings. The matter seems to have been handled outside of court.
Harry would go on to amuse reporters outside the courtroom with old-school “take my wife” jokes, and perturb Linda’s lawyers by asserting that he had purchased the entire art collection that his Guggenheim Trustee wife had carefully curated over decades, and that his net worth was actually negative-$400 million, despite having recently purchased a $10.6 million Georgica Pond home for himself and Patricia to share.
The fireworks stretched on and on, with Harry threatening to demolish an apartment that Linda wanted to buy and Linda’s hand-picked experts delivering an extremely low estimate on the art collection’s value, presumably so she’d end up with more cash in the final settlement. None of it flew.
In December 2018, their divorce judge handed down a 64-page decision that technically ended their divorce. When parties in a divorce can’t agree on terms, the judge is left to make those decisions for them, so Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Laura Drager crafted a meticulously balanced settlement that, for instance, let Linda keep $40 million in art, although she had to pay Harry a $20 million credit for the privilege.
Meanwhile, Harry retained about $82 million worth of commercial properties, including the 737 Park Avenue address that started so much trouble for them, and had to pay Linda a $41 million credit for that. Each got half of the $62 million in their bank accounts, and on and on. It was a fair outcome, at least from the outside, but left Linda with one outstanding complaint: Justice Drager ordered that the rest of the art collection be sold, with the profits split.
Linda didn’t want to sell the collection, and after Harry ostentatiously married Patricia in March 2019, Linda decided that she wasn’t about to take the court order lying down. She appealed the ruling in March, and in October, got the bad news that no, in fact, she was going to have to let that collection be sold off just like the trial judge said.
Works to head to the auction block include Andy Warhol’s “Nine Marilyns,” Alberto Giacometti’s “Le Nez,” and works by John Chamberlain, Robert Gober, Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Donald Judd, Willem de Koonig, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Mark Rothko, and Cy Twombly.
Finally, after three and a half years of fighting and a year since the marriage was dissolved, the Macklowe art collection is headed for the walls or storage facilities of new collectors. Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips were all invited to submit proposals to participate in the sale, and the Post says the auction is coming soon.
It may not be the end Linda was hoping for, but it is an end, and one that’s taken a long time to get here. If your marriage in Queens is ending, trust the team at Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino to help get you to the other side in the best shape possible. Call us today at 718-523-1111 for a free consultation.