It turns out that the age-old strategy of litigating a matter in the press can backfire spectacularly, and for billionaire real estate developer Harry Macklowe, it appears to have done just that.
The man who has bought and sold much of Manhattan’s skyline held an impromptu press conference with reporters outside of a Manhattan civil courtroom this spring while he waited for a hearing in his scandal-plagued divorce from his wife of 58 years, Linda Macklowe.
That day, he told jokes, said that he wants the divorce handled quickly, and revealed that he plans to remarry as soon as it’s done.
Those nuptials would be with his longtime mistress, Patricia Landeau, whom he housed in a ritzy apartment at one of his buildings for two years before he walked out on his wife.
He also shared a piece of what we might call “fake news” these days, telling the gathered reporters that he had offered Linda half of the couple’s fortune – a settlement of roughly $1 billion – free and clear if she would just sign the papers.
A divorce settlement can be a quick way to end a divorce, however one must ensure their interests are protected.
Well, it turns out that Harry, giddy with his newfound freedom, may have been exaggerating both his offer and his liquid wealth at the time.
At a follow-up hearing in June, Linda challenged him to show her the money.
When he couldn’t, the judge was left with little to do but schedule a date for their divorce trial, now set for September.
Likely with some glee, Linda released a statement to Page Six, explaining, “I read in the New York Post in April that Harry told you he has $2 billion and that he is offering me $1 billion. I have not seen that offer nor anything like it. If that is the offer, I will take it and we will be done tomorrow.”
Ouch. Harry may be reconsidering his public comments right about now, but the truth is that the split in his marriage has unearthed all kinds of fault lines in his life.
Friends reported being shocked last May when Harry, 79, reportedly came home one day, told Linda he was divorcing her, then left and moved in with girlfriend Patricia.
Linda was blindsided, and apparently didn’t even know about the affair.
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Patricia, 60, is a French national who heads a charity that raises money for the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which the Macklowes have been donors to for years.
Patricia and Harry met at one of the group’s charity galas, and things proceeded from there.
Ultimately, he moved her into an apartment at a Macklowe Properties-owned building at 737 Park Avenue.
Within the building, it was apparently common knowledge among the well-heeled residents that Harry and Patricia were an item, and after ditching Linda, Harry and Patricia spent a holiday weekend in the Hamptons, very publicly enjoying each other’s company.
Friends were not pleased with Harry’s rub-it-in-your-face approach to his longtime wife, and apparently the couple’s adult children also took umbrage at their father’s behavior.
Son Billy Macklowe, 48, worked for the family business from 1997 to 2010, when he branched out on his own and formed William Macklowe Company.
Much of his father’s staff came along, and Billy also purchased the rights to the name Macklowe Management LLC. According to press reports, Harry’s misadventure in purchasing the GM building just before the 2008 crash had strained their professional relationship.
Back in 2007, Harry went on a buying spree, picking up a number of cherry properties around the city and piling up $7 billion in debt to do it.
When the financial crisis thundered through Manhattan’s real estate market, Harry was left holding a very expensive bag that threatened to ruin him.
He was able to sell the GM building, which he had reportedly coveted for years, but the episode took a toll on his family.
Because he couldn’t refinance the debt, he tried to shield high-value assets by transferring them into his wife’s name.
The Macklowe clan white-knuckled their way through the Great Recession, but when Harry blew up his marriage, his son reportedly took his mother’s side.
This may have prompted a legal filing last November by Harry, who sued Billy for breach of fiduciary duty, misuse of company funds, and improperly taking control of the URLs HMacklowe.com and Macklowe.com, which Billy had registered for his father’s use.
He further claimed that Billy’s control of the name Macklowe Management was gained through duress and undue influence, and claimed that his son’s use of the domains and names had essentially shut his business down.
Billy insisted that the lawsuit was without merit, with a representative telling the press that Billy is “deeply saddened and perplexed that his father has chosen to file this completely baseless lawsuit.
After years of working productively with his father, it is Billy’s earnest hope they can resolve the matter amicably but he is prepared to defend against this lawsuit in court and is confident he will prevail.”
Another source added a wrinkle to the story, noting that by controlling the domains, Billy may have had access to his father’s email, and Harry feared that communications with Patricia or with his divorce lawyers may not be entirely private.
Another wrinkle, this time in the divorce itself, goes back to the financial restructuring that Harry was doing back in 2008 and 2009 when he was staring into the abyss of bankruptcy.
Remember how Harry had transferred all his big-dollar assets into Linda’s name to protect them from creditors?
That may well be why Harry hasn’t actually presented Linda with an offer for half of the couple’s $2 billion fortune.
Among it is an art collection that is alone valued at $1 billion, which Linda claims to own outright.
Harry is fighting the claim, but you have to wonder whether paintings by Franz Kline, Gerhard Richter, and Mark Rothko weren’t among the treasures he handed over in his effort to protect his wealth.
If so, his jilted wife is holding the title, and she’s finally found a way to exact some revenge.
When your marriage in Queens is coming to its end, the right lawyers can make a big difference.
Call the attorneys at Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino today at 718-523-1111 for a free consultation with an experienced Queens divorce lawyer.