Ron Perelman’s Brawling Exes: Duff Goes After Claudia’s Deal

The child custody and support contest between billionaire Ronald Perelman and his Democratic Party activist ex-wife Patricia Duff has been relatively quiet as of late. Ms. Duff’s attorneys could have changed all that in February when they put a particularly interesting motion before State Supreme Court Justice Eileen Bransten in Manhattan, who is presiding over the portion of the case that will determine who gets custody of the former couple’s 4-year-old daughter Caleigh. (Justice Franklin Weissberg is presiding over the support issue, which has been adjourned until at least May.)

As described by Patricia Hennessey, a partner of Ms. Duff’s current lead attorney, Harriet Cohen, the motion sought to require “Mr. Perelman to turn over to Ms. Duff’s lawyers all of his sworn affidavits” in litigation that resulted from his prior marriage to former gossip columnist and current Live With Regis and Kathie Lee on-air celebrity reporter Claudia Cohen. Ms. Hennessey confirmed that the motion sought to compel Ms. Cohen to do the same.

“As everybody knows, there was extensive litigation between Ronald Perelman and Claudia Cohen on issues of custody and visitation, post-divorce,” Ms. Hennessey explained. Unlike the most recent leg of the Perelman-Duff legal battle, however, Ms. Cohen’s 1993 court battles with Mr. Perelman were conducted almost entirely off the media’s radar screen, with only a few morsels of their skirmishes landing in the press. Ms. Duff’s divorce from Mr. Perelman started out in a similar fashion, but late last year her lawyers went to the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court to open the courtroom to the public and press.

At the time, Ms. Duff’s representatives said they wanted to drag the divorce case into the media limelight to demonstrate the ways in which Mr. Perelman, with his immense resources, was smothering his ex-wife beneath, as Ms. Duff’s spokesman put it in February, “an avalanche of costly litigation and other tactics designed to break her, emotionally and financially.”

Ms. Hennessey characterized the motion as “relevant to determine the best interests of Caleigh and also to test the veracity of witnesses in this case when it ever resumes.” On March 30, Justice Bransten denied the motion, but had Ms. Duff’s legal team been successful, the public would have gotten the opportunity to read all about the litigation-litigation that Mr. Perelman and Ms. Cohen had entered into under the agreement that it be kept confidential. The information would also have become public at a time when the couple’s daughter, Samantha, who was at the center of much of the litigation, is 8 years old, and potentially more capable of understanding any uncomfortable details lurking in the litigation.

Ms. Hennessey contended that “it is a fundamental principle of custody law in this state that … nothing a parent has done is immune from being looked at in a custody court.” She added that Ms. Duff is appealing the justice’s decision. “All I want is a fair hearing,” Ms. Duff told The Transom.

Ms. Duff and her lawyers seem determined to drag the details of Mr. Perelman’s and Ms. Cohen’s divorce into her case. Back in January, Justice Weissberg disqualified two of Ms. Duff’s lawyers, the husband-and-wife team of Ken and Rita Warner, after Ms. Cohen alleged that the two had a conflict of interest because they had represented her back when she had some support issues with Mr. Perelman.

In his decision, which the Warners are appealing, Justice Weissberg wrote that when the Warners represented Ms. Cohen, she “disclosed confidential information to the firm about her daughter’s financial needs and about her daughter’s relationship with Mr. Perelman and Ms. Duff. One of the goals of the ensuing settlement between her and Mr. Perelman was that its terms be confidential and that Samantha be shielded from publicity.”

Justice Weissberg further wrote, “Ms. Duff’s interests are clearly related to the Perelman-Cohen litigation and inconsistent with the goals which Ms. Cohen sought when entering into a settlement therein. In her argument before the court, Rita Warner … conceded that her client intended to argue that her daughter was entitled to the same or comparable standard of living which Samantha enjoys and, towards that end, would seek discovery of all information revealing the child support which Mr. Perelman provides to Ms. Cohen on Samantha’s behalf.”

Bouley Lite

Not long after the tetchy partnership between restaurateur Warner LeRoy and chef David Bouley dissolved in a flash fire of litigation last June, Mr. Bouley seemed to have recovered nicely. Back then, he told The Transom that he was “very close” to a financing deal with Crédit Suisse First Boston Corporation, and that he had entered into a contract with venerated French pastry chef Pierre Hermé. Mr. Bouley also confidently predicted that the bulk of his master culinary plan, which included several restaurants, a culinary school and a retail store called Bouley at Home, would be open within 18 months.

Well, as the one-year anniversary of Mr. Bouley’s divorce from Mr. LeRoy approaches, and the city’s culinary chorus resumes asking about the status of Bouley-rama, a new legal skirmish between the chef and a former employee suggests that Mr. Bouley may have to downscale his vision, at least temporarily, because he has not been able to get all of the financing he sought.

Although Mr. Bouley did not return phone calls, The Transom has learned that work is indeed proceeding on Danube, an Austrian cuisine restaurant that Mr. Bouley had originally said would be open by December 1997, at Hudson and Duane streets in TriBeCa. One source close to the construction estimated that work would be completed in about four weeks. Mr. Bouley has also taken over a former bike shop next to his Bouley Bakery restaurant on West Broadway, which will double his dining-room capacity to 88 seats. The construction source said, however, that work had yet to begin on the old Mohawk Electric Building, also at the corner of Duane and Hudson streets, which, Mr. Bouley told The New York Times in 1997, will be the headquarters of Bouley International and include two restaurants, private dining rooms, a cooking school and a research institute.

While the contractors work on expanding Mr. Bouley’s restaurant stable, his lawyers have been in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, delaying one Brian Galligan’s attempt to drag Mr. Bouley into arbitration. Mr. Galligan, a former partner in the Sfuzzi restaurant chain and a caterer who owns the Millennium Hospitality Group, filed a demand for arbitration in which he is seeking $100,000 for breach of a “consulting agreement” he signed with Mr. Bouley.

A copy of Mr. Galligan’s contract, which was included in Mr. Bouley’s State Supreme Court filings, indicates that, as part of this consulting arrangement, which is dated June 1998, Mr. Galligan was hired as “chief operational officer,” ostensibly of Bouley International, although the contract does not make that clear. For his work, Mr. Galligan would get a $200,000 annual salary, plus perks, including up to $600 a month in parking fees.

Mr. Galligan’s employment with Mr. Bouley ended a few months later, sometime in the fall of 1998, and in February he served Mr. Bouley with his demand for arbitration. (Mr. Galligan declined to comment or cooperate for this article.)

Interestingly, papers filed by Mr. Bouley’s attorneys in State Supreme Court to stay the arbitration cite a clause in Mr. Galligan’s contract that read, “Your employment will go into effect upon Bouley obtaining funding and closing.” Mr. Bouley’s court papers then note that “Bouley did not obtain the funding required by the Agreement.” One of Mr. Bouley’s attorneys, Jennifer Corbet, said she could not elaborate upon this statement regarding Mr. Bouley’s funding, or rather lack thereof. She added that Mr. Galligan’s employment with Mr. Bouley ended “because of performance.”

But a source familiar with Mr. Bouley’s financing cast further light on the matter: According to the source, Mr. Bouley had initially talked to Crédit Suisse First Boston about financing his entire culinary burrito grande, but the investment banking firm, according to the source, “couldn’t get comfortable with the scope of his plans.” Hence, Mr. Bouley came away with essentially a one-year secured loan for $8.5 million–largely for Danube, with some of the proceeds funding the expansion of Bouley Bakery.

Even the small Bouley Bakery expansion has been fraught with anxiety. On a number of occasions since late March, the New York City District Council of Carpenters has set up picket lines and a giant inflatable rat outside Bouley Bakery to protest Mr. Bouley’s use of non-union carpenters. Leaflets handed out by the picketers accuse Bouley International of paying “substandard wages,” although the source familiar with the construction dismissed this charge, claiming that Mr. Bouley is paying “prevailing wages.” The source added that Mr. Bouley is being targeted “because he’s a celebrity.” Still, Dominick J. Lavacca, the organizing director for the District Council of Carpenters, said that Mr. Bouley’s representatives have canceled a number of scheduled meetings with the union, even after it took down its rat to “show good faith.” Said Mr. Lavacca: “That’s arrogance.”

Model Editor

A sitar-version of the Doors’ “Light My Fire” wafted over the loudspeakers at the Bowery Bar on the warm evening of April 5, an appropriate introduction to the California esthetic of Nylon , the new women’s magazine by Marvin Scott Jarrett and his wife, Jaclynn, which was making its New York debut. Mr. Jarrett, who had dyed the remnant wisps of hair on his head a vibrant red, and Ms. Jarrett, who had a Hindu bindi pasted to her forehead, were waiting for the magazine’s “creative director,” the model Helena Christensen, to arrive. She strolled in at 10 P.M. and was immediately escorted to the outdoor garden for photos. “Let’s make this quick,” Ms. Christensen said to Mr. Jarrett as she pushed her way through the crowd.

After a few obligatory snaps next to Nylon ‘s founders, the firing line of photographers asked to get a few with Ms. Christensen alone. Ms. Christensen, apparently unable to completely shed the guise of model in favor of the less glamorous one of journalist grunt, began to purse her lips and pout, then turned and shot a coquettish look over the shoulder of her black dress, sassily swinging her beaded purse.

The photographers followed Ms. Christensen inside, where she posed in front of a vista of a snow-capped mountain. A publicist began tossing in celebrities to pose with Ms. Christensen: Evita ‘s Elaine Page, hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons, model-actor-party boy Donovan Leitch, and the B-52’s Fred Schneider. Twiggy Ramirez, Marilyn Manson’s guitar player, in death makeup, long dreadlocks and Pippi Longstocking striped hose, blew kisses to Elza and Flemming Christensen, the model’s parents, who were visiting from Copenhagen. Mrs. Christensen blew a kiss right back at him. “I think she wants me to be her son-in-law,” Mr. Ramirez explained.

After the shoot, The Transom asked Ms. Christensen what she thought of her reputation as the smart supermodel. “I think maybe I’ve been typecast wrong,” she said, offering as evidence the Q.&A. she did with actress Liv Tyler, which is featured in the magazine’s premiere issue. “This is the first time I ever had to transcribe anything,” said Ms. Christensen. “I had to keep rewinding . What a fucking nightmare .” Ms. Christensen also became acquainted with one of those newfangled inventions. “I used a computer for the first time!” she said. “I have only used a typewriter, then all of a sudden they throw an I-Mac in front of me. I kept a little list next to it of how to turn it on, how to turn it off, how to save.”

Meanwhile, the photographers had tracked down Kate Moss, who was sitting in a booth and smoking. One snapped a photo. She shook her head disapprovingly. But then the hoard found her and began snapping away. “No, I can’t!” Ms. Moss shouted as she rose from her table, arms above her head as though being pursued by a swarm of hornets. Ms. Moss ran all the way to the street and did not return.

– Andrew Goldman