It's shaping up to be an old-school battle of money and wills, the likes of which we haven't seen since Mrs. Astor died and the ongoing trial of her son, Anthony Marshall, kicked off: Popular socialite and philanthropist Princess Firyal of Jordan is getting sued by the sons of her ailing companion, Lionel Pincus. The princess, who was once married to the brother of late King Hussein of Jordan, took up with the widowed Pincus later in life. During their years together, she introduced him to luxury living and high society, and it was at her bidding that the formerly low-key private-equity titan purchased a $50 million pair of penthouse apartments at the Pierre hotel. Pincus was mentally incapacitated by cancer surgery in 2006, and now his sons are attempting to sell the property. The income from the sale will go to charity, but if he dies before it can be sold, it will belong to the princess.
The sons filed suit against Firyal yesterday, alleging that she is deliberately trying to block the sale. According to the Corcoran listing, it's quite the place: over 7,000 square feet, fourteen rooms, five bedrooms, two libraries, "nearly 60 foot expanse fronting Fifth Avenue with panoramic views of the Park, the skating rink, South and West skylines from 8 picture windows," and, of course, the full concierge, food, and staff service of the Pierre Hotel. And Firyal has decorated it lavishly, according to the Observer, which quoted from yesterday's lawsuit:
"As Mr. Pincus' health and mental capacity declined," the suit says, "Princess Firyal's spending rose dramatically," which means she apparently spent $1.07 million in one month, and $17 million on outfitting the Pierre apartment, which was "ill-suited for Mr. Pincus' physical state." The suit is peppered with decoration details that are a wonder to behold: She apparently got $21,000 candlesticks; a $38,000 exercise room sofa; a $129,000 console table; a pair of Tang dynasty pottery horses that cost more than $750,000; and a $65,000 mirror.
(We always wondered who shopped at those weird luxury-antique shops in midtown, and now we know: princesses.) The lawsuit also points out that she "has a long history of dating wealthy men" and alleges that Firyal "authored letters that instructed Mr. Pincus' Trustees, his sons and his daughters to treat Princess Firyal as Mr. Pincus' wife ... then secretly arranged for her personal assistant to type the letters on Mr. Pincus' letterhead, destroyed all evidence of her authorship of the letters, and caused Mr. Pincus to sign them." You've got to read the whole Observer story, and some of the background in the Post. It's the kind of rich-eating-the-rich story that makes New York livable, with or without a recession.