Ellen Pao, the woman who’s suing her former employer, venture capital powerhouse Kleiner Perkins, over sexual harassment claims, is also a bit player in a New York City legal drama, it turns out. Buried inside a fascinating weekend Times look at the complications and industry-wide reverberations of her lawsuit was this detail: Pao is married to Alphonse “Buddy” Fletcher, the hedge-funder who last year sued the Dakota for racial discrimination and defamation.
Fletcher, who is African-American, had one apartment in the Dakota for personal use, one for his mother, and two for storage/employee use. He wanted to buy a fifth unit in the storied building, in order to better accommodate his growing family. He and Pao have a daughter together, and Fletcher apparently wanted to preserve some personal space of his own. The board (of which he was once president) denied his bid — not, they say, for any sort of prejudicial reasons, but simply because they didn’t believe Fletcher, whose hedge fund is doing less-than-fabulously, had the financial wherewithal. In its response to the suit, the board wrote of Fletcher’s firm that it “may be seriously troubled and a source of potential future costs or liabilities.”
But the juiciest detail of all? Before marrying Pao and seeking that extra apartment, Fletcher shared the Dakota digs with his long-term boyfriend, Hobart Fowlkes Jr, a switcheroo that goes barely explored in the Times piece. By e-mail, Fowlkes, the godfather to Pao and Fletcher’s child, assured the paper of his closeness with the couple — and also, perhaps passive-aggressively, reminded Pao of just how close he is with one-half of it. “I must admit that I do not know Ellen as intimately as I obviously know Buddy. However, my interactions with Ellen have never been anything but positive.”
The Dakota case isn’t the first such suit the Harvard-educated, high-profile Fletcher has filed. In 1991, he filed a racial discrimination suit against his then-employer Kidder Peabody; he was awarded more than $1 million in damages but didn’t win the racial discrimination claims. Shortly thereafter, while still in his twenties, he started his own firm and bought the first Dakota apartment, then at the bargain-basement price of $465,000, becoming the building’s second black resident ever. And he hasn’t just been the plaintiff: Fletcher had sexual harassment claims filed against him in 2003 and 2006 by two men who’d worked as a contractor and property manager, respectively, on his Connecticut property. Fletcher settled both under confidential terms, but presumably he picked up some legal insight to pass along to his now-suing wife.