The Real Housewives franchise never ceases to cheer the hardworking men and women who staff the nation’s tabloids. From feuds to ridiculous marriage choices to decidedly dirty divorces, the casts of all the shows – and especially the New York City edition – supply a nearly limitless stream of content for gossip writers and their celebrity-obsessed readers. It could easily be Bethenny Frankel and her latest legal spat with her ex-husband, but this week, the headlines are all about Countess Luann de Lesseps and the end of a lawsuit filed against her by her ex-husband and their adult children.
The internecine legal drama isn’t remotely the most over-the-top thing to have happened to Luann since joining the show as an original cast member in 2008. In fact, at the time, she was genuinely a Countess, having been married to Count Alexandre de Lesseps of France since 1993. In 2009, just as she was beginning her work to capitalize on her RHONY notoriety by launching her book Class with the Countess: How to Live with Elegance and Flair, her husband emailed her to tell her that he was having an affair with an Ethiopian princess and that he wanted a divorce.
It’s the type of revelation that could tank one’s book launch, but instead, fans rallied to Luann and the book, like the TV show, was a success. Her persona, as an American who married into European nobility and intended to share the ways of the elite with us commoners, stuck, and The Countess became an unshakable part of her brand. Notably, the divorce settlement included an agreement that Luann would set aside 50% of her interest in the family’s Hamptons home in a trust for their children. This would become the foundation of the lawsuit, filed in July 2018, that was just dropped in April 2019.
But even here, with the Count leaving her for an actual princess, the story has not yet reached the true heights of over-the-topness that more recently came to characterize Luann. In particular, in 2015, she struck up a romance with a businessman named Tom D’Agostino (no relation to anyone at this firm), who has reportedly dated several of the Real Housewives. Over time, the relationship got serious and D’Agostino proposed to Luann.
There were problems though. Rumors swirled that Tom was already cheating, and fellow Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel tried to talk sense to Luann to keep her from making a painful mistake, including showing her pictures of D’Agostino kissing another woman. The result was that the Palm Beach, Florida, wedding proceeded as scheduled on December 31, 2016, but Bethenny was not invited.
Unsurprisingly, the marriage didn’t last. By August, Luann announced that she was once again single and then took her kids on a trip to Europe to decompress, but subsequent events suggest that her life was already spiraling out of control. That December, she returned to Palm Beach, and this is where things really went way off the rails. On the evening of December 23, 2017, police were called to a hotel in Palm Beach after a security guard reported that a woman and a man had trespassed into someone’s room while housekeeping was making its rounds. He tried to get them to leave, and when they refused, he called the police.
Two officers then arrived and found Luann and her friend Julie Olson. Both, according to the police report, “smelled of an unknown alcoholic beverage, had slurred speech and appeared to be highly intoxicated.” Olson later corrected the story for the media, saying that things went about like this: she, Luann, and one of Luann’s ex-boyfriends had been drinking at the hotel bar when Luann and the man left. About 15 minutes later, the man came back downstairs to the bar and asked Olson to come and help him get Luann out of the room they’d gone into because she “wouldn’t understand she was in the wrong room.”
Olson arrived at the room just as the police did, around 9:20 p.m., and she says she went home and went to bed soon after. Luann, to put it mildly, did not.
It’s not eminently clear what happened between 9:20 p.m. and 1:25 a.m., but that’s the time stamp on Luann’s arrest, and the incident was a doozy. Drunken Luann apparently lost it with the police officers, going so far as to hit at least one of them and threatening to kill them. She was charged with a series of felonies, including battery on an officer, disorderly intoxication, resisting arrest with violence, and crimes against a person. Her response, after she was released, was to apologize for her behavior – certainly a good first step – and check herself into rehab to address her drinking. She said that returning to Palm Beach for the first time since the disastrous marriage to D’Agostino had unearthed hidden feelings.
She spent much of 2018 negotiating with prosecutors in Florida and ended up with a plea deal that kept her out of jail, but ordered a year of probation, payment of fines and court costs, 50 hours of community service, avoidance of alcohol and drugs, and regular attendance at AA meetings. This was all hammered out in July 2018, the same month that Alexandre and the children filed suit.
To be clear, it seems like Luann’s post-divorce relationship with her children’s father has been pretty good. He even offered to walk her down the aisle when she married D’Agostino, so the lawsuit must have come as a surprise. It turns out that the Hamptons home – which she was awarded in the divorce – had been sold for $8 million, and rather than putting half into a trust, she instead put her sights on a $6 million estate in upstate New York. To obtain it, she purchased a $3.1 million home in Sag Harbor that she planned to flip to finance the upstate property. The family’s lawsuit would block the sale of the Sag Harbor home, putting a significant kink in her master plan.
It’s not clear how the matter was resolved, but lawyers for both sides signed a stipulation of discontinuance last month, closing the lawsuit. Whether a trust was established or some other outcome engineered, it seems that Luann is closing the book on a very bad, awful, horrible, no good year or two and moving forward. She’s back as a main cast member on RHONY and has a successful cabaret show that’s she even started touring with.
When your marriage in Queens is ending, the team at Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino can help. Call us today at 718-523-1111 for a free consultation with an experienced Queens divorce and child custody attorney.