Just when it seemed that the bitter, two-decade divorce war being fought between Steven A. Cohen, the billionaire hedge-fund master, and his ex-wife Patricia couldn't get any worse, yesterday she expanded her claims and upped her demands in a refiling of a previously withdrawn suit. She wants a part of his company, SAC Capital Advisors, which invests over $12 billion, and last year made Cohen himself some $1.4 billion, of which at most $150,000 ended up in the bank accounts of Patricia and their children. It's an extravagant ask mostly designed to grab attention, especially Steve's but the kind of opening volley that sometimes leads to a rational working-out of differences.
The outlandish ask is obviously an opening gambit, leading to a final resolution of their differences (although given the tortured history of their post-marriage relationship, it is very hard to imagine that anything would be really, truly final). But that, at any rate, is what she said she wants.
"I don't understand why he doesn't settle," I said to her one day over tea while reporting my recent feature on the pair. "From your mouth to God's ears," she said.
And it might happen, partly because Patricia is hitting the secretive hedgie where it could hurt. Does he really want to have claims that twenty years ago he cheated his ex out of her rightful share dragged through the courts, with all the discovery that such a thing would entail?
Patricia believes that Steve is the type to settle. It's a matter of character. As she wrote in an e-mail obtained by New York Magazine, "He'll blow wind for a time to see if he can get away with it but there is no way he is ever going to allow himself to be forced to sit there and be deposed." According to Patricia's study of her ex, "based on his history he always settles," she wrote. And she views settling as rational. "What will he say, 'Yes I screwed her and my children, but I'm afraid, Your Honor, that the statute of limitations has run out'? That might suffice for a car salesman," she wrote.
For Steve, settling might be rational. After all, the publicity around the suit "affects my business," he recently told a friend "investors ask me." And he could write a check "of any size," as Patricia puts it. A settlement would be little more than a rounding error.
But rationality, in short supply in any divorce, seems to be nonexistent in this one. Patricia's humiliated; Steve's insulted. She's had to request and, as she sees it, sometimes beg for money. As he sees it, he's been generous with her, providing $400,000 in child support and education and other expenses in some years and she never, ever says thank you.
So, for the time being, Steve insists he wants a fight, and Steve can be a brutal fighter. As a first tactic, he may go after her attorney, Gaytri Kachroo, claiming she should be sanctioned for filing a frivolous suit, as he did with Patricia's previous attorney. Then, despite Patricia's view, Steve's advisers say he will contend that the statute of limitations long ago ran out. Her claims go back to their divorce settlements twenty years ago. "This will never get to court," one of his advisers told me a few weeks ago.
That's not necessarily Steve's view. For him, it's not about money and it never was. "I want a court decision," he told an associate a few weeks ago.
Related: Divorced, Not Separated [NYM]