A jury has rejected a claim by reclusive US billionaire Donald Bren’s two grown-up children for $US134 million ($150 million) in retroactive child support.
Jurors deliberated for two hours in a Los Angeles court before siding with the 78-year-old, whose lawyer argued that no family court would have given the children more than the millions he had already paid.
The unusual case was a high-stakes contest between one of the nation’s richest men and two adult children he fathered during a 13-year affair with Jennifer McKay Gold. She brought the lawsuit on behalf of her children, Christie Bren, 22, and her brother, David, 18.
Gold, who signed agreements with Donald Bren when the children were born, said they were cheated out of the support to which they were entitled.
The suit sought $US400,000 a month for each of the children in retroactive child support from 1988 to 2002. Their mother testified she received a total of about $US3 million for them during that period.
Four contracts were created involving child support each time Gold became pregnant and after the children were born. The accords, beginning in 1988, rose from $US3500 a month to $US18,000 a month between 1992 and 2002.
Gold said she accepted it because Donald Bren promised to have a relationship with the children. But Gold said he ignored the children when they approached him in a restaurant in 2001, and she realised Donald Bren was reneging on his promise. He testified there never was a promise.
Donald Bren, the billionaire chairman of a private real estate business with a penchant for privacy, stepped into the court’s public spotlight to testify that he never loved Gold and never planned to be a parent to the two children. He said he provided enough for them to live a privileged life and agreed to pay for their education.
With an estimated net worth of $US12 billion, Bren is 16th in Forbes’ Magazine’s ranking of the 400 richest Americans.
Attempts to reach lawyers after the verdict were not immediately successful.
Lawyer Hillel Chodos, who represents the children, said in opening statements that they had lived a life similar to many upper middle-class children while their father lived “like a maharajah”.
“They are not here because they didn’t have enough to live on,” he told the jury in closing arguments on Wednesday. “They are here because they were deprived by Donald Bren of their birthright … They had the right to share in his standard of living.”
That standard, Chodos said, included two California homes, a Sun Valley ranch, a New York apartment, private planes and a yacht. Lawyer John Quinn, who represented Donald Bren, said the estimate of the real estate mogul’s liquid assets was exaggerated.