Huguette Clark Estate Goes After $44 Million In Gifts Given By Late Heiress

dolls Huguette Clark Estate Goes After $44 Million In Gifts Given By Late Heiress

Only the dolls know the real story, and they’re not talking. (Sherry’s Rose Cottage, flickr)

Let the battle begin! The cash has yet to come in on the sale of late copper heiress Huguette Clark’s Fifth Avenue 12th-floor apartment (in contract since April), but the fight over her fortune is already underway.

The executor of Clark’s estate has filed a legal petition asking the court to order Clark’s staff to repay the $44 million in gifts that she gave them on top of salaries, according to a story on msnbc.com.

Clark, who died at the age of 104 with a fortune of $400 million and no direct heirs, authorized many gifts from her vast estate over the years. After her death, distant relatives sued, claiming that her fortune had been mismanaged.

Clark spent lavishly on her staff, msnbc.com reports, giving Hadassah Peri, her registered nurse of 20 years, $31 million in gifts in addition to her $131,040 salary. But then, Ms. Peri, who was randomly assigned by a home health-care agency in 1991, clearly went above and beyond the average nursing duties, working 12-hour shifts five or six days a week and helping Clark to purchase dolls at auction.

Clark also gave her two physicians and their families $3.1 million, her night nurse $1.1 million, her accountant $375,000 and her attorney $60,000 (in addition to a $1.8 million gift to his daughter living on the West Bank, to pay for a security system in the wake of the 9/11 attacks). Then there was the $6.3 million gift and the $6 million Manet painting that she gave to Beth Israel Medical Center, where she spent the last decades of her life although she was, by all accounts, in good health.

The public administrator of New York County argues that the reclusive Clark was coerced and manipulated into such generosity.

“Mrs. Clark had virtually no visitors other than persons who were on her payroll,” wrote Peter S. Schram, outside counsel for the administrator’s office, according to msnbc.com. “Mrs. Clark was completely dependent for her physical and emotional needs on a small group of individuals, who were her only contacts with the world outside of her hospital room.”

Perhaps there’s more to the story than meets the eye, but isn’t that the way Clark wanted things? Why shouldn’t she spend her money on the only people she saw? The only people she apparently wished to see? One can only buy so many dolls, so many properties that one does not ultimately wish to live in.

kvelsey@observer.com