Harry and Linda Macklowe, whose octogenarian divorce has sparked countless headlines, are apparently set to spark a few more. After a judge went through the painstaking effort to write an order laying out an equitable distribution of their immense fortune, art collection, properties, and yacht, it seems that the couple, which has been fighting since Harry revealed a years’ long affair in 2016, are avoiding getting compliant with it. After nearly 60 years of marriage, and with Harry eager to move on and marry his girlfriend, it seems that the pair are not quite finished with each other yet.
Harry is a multi-billionaire real estate developer whose empire has, at one time or another, included nearly every notable building in the Manhattan skyline. In the 1960s, when he was starting out, he developed a reputation for a sleek, modernist aesthetic. His company, Macklowe Properties, owns the Metropolitan Tower on West 57th Street, and owns or has owned other prime real estate, including 737 Park Avenue, 400 Madison Avenue, Two Grand Central Tower, 540 Madison Avenue, and the celebrated 432 Park Avenue, the tallest residential structure in the western hemisphere.
More famously, and more consequentially, Harry coveted the General Motors building for years, considering it the crown jewel of his real estate empire. In 2003, he finally had a shot when Donald Trump and a partner decided to sell it for $1.4 billion. Macklowe approved the glass cube in G.M. Plaza that leads to the Apple Store, finally putting the long-hated sunken plaza to use and helping to return definition to Grand Army Plaza.
Then the Great Recession hit, and Harry, who was up to his eyeballs in debt after going on a buying spree in the two years before the crash, had to make some hard decisions. In the 2008 climate, bankers weren’t eager to work with anyone except to receive payment on monies owed, and with $7 billion in debt dragging him down, he was forced to sell the GM Building for some $2.8 billion. Friends have pinpointed this as a particularly difficult time in the marriage between Harry and Linda.
Others, including Liar’s Ball author Vicky Ward, have pointed out that the marriage may never have been especially happy, although the Macklowe’s did produce two children, William “Billy” Macklowe and Elizabeth Macklowe, who was married for a time to Kent Swig, son of west coast real estate developer Melvin Swig.
Billy went into the family business himself, finally striking out on his own in 2010. In the fall of 2016, months into the divorce action, Harry filed suit against his son, accusing him of breach of fiduciary duty, misuse of company funds, and stealing several URLs that Harry thought rightly belonged to him, including HMacklowe.com and Macklowe.com.
The lawsuit confused observers, who were surprised that Harry was seemingly willing to set his family relationships entirely on fire, but there were two things going on that triggered the dispute. First, Billy’s sympathies, quite naturally, were with his mother, who his father had unquestionably treated badly in the break up. Second, Harry had emails on servers on at least one of the domains, including conversations with the lawyers handling the divorce. He didn’t want his son, an ally of his estranged wife, to have access to the communications.
Reporting is absent on how the case was decided, which suggests that the parties came to a settlement outside of court. Harry has on occasion delighted the press outside of the courtroom, as when he regaled the assembled media with Vaudeville-era “take my wife” jokes ahead of a hearing. Around this time, he also offered Linda $1 billion to drop the divorce suit and settle that day, but it seems to have been more hyperbole and boasting than actual offer. Harry didn’t have anywhere close to a billion in liquid cash to give anyone, his wife or not.
Many divorces cool down quite a bit over time, but the Macklowes are a cut above the rest. Instead of accepting the situation and moving on, their squabbles became more bitter and potentially more damaging. In March of 2018, Linda gave a computer that had belonged to Harry to the FBI, alleging that her computer experts had found evidence that he had used it to search for child pornography. If there was an investigation, it appears not to have gone anywhere.
By December, Justice Laura Drager had heard enough and recognized that while these two may be senior citizens, maturity isn’t a characteristic they possess in great amounts. She issued a detailed ruling that apportioned the cash, assets, and debts between the couple with as much equanimity as possible. Linda, who is a trustee at the Guggenheim, was even allowed to keep $40 million of art for her private enjoyment, but the other roughly $700 million worth was to be auctioned.
Now, the Macklowes and their lawyers are claiming that they’re having a hard time selling the works. “People in the art world don’t want to get in the middle of a divorce,” Page Six reported Harry’s lawyer, Dan Rottenstreich, told the judge. The parties had been ordered to identify a receiver, presumably someone from the art world, who could help with the auction and liquidation, but instead they found a judge they wanted to use. Judge Drager nearly rolled her eyes. “God knows there are already enough lawyers on this case,” she responded.
They have also failed to liquidate an East Hampton home, possibly their Georgica Pond estate. Apparently the Macklowes can’t agree on the value of the property, so it hasn’t yet been listed. “This is just nonsense,” said the judge. “Neither party wants to keep this house.”
Now that the end of the divorce is near, is it possible that the couple are having cold feet about concluding the marriage? Harry still seems deeply committed to his girlfriend Patricia, but there’s usually only one reason to drag your feet when freedom is at hand.
If your marriage in Queens is ending, the team at Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino can help you protect what matters. Call us today at 718-523-1111 for a free consultation with an experienced Queens divorce and child custody attorney.