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Mrs. Astor's Baby


On December 18, 2003, Brooke signed a codicil that reads, “After much thought and discussion with my son … I have decided to do for my son, Anthony Marshall, what my late husband did for me. ” She reduced her gifts to the Met and the library and created the Anthony Marshall Fund with 49 percent of her charitable monies. It represented a combined loss for the institutions of perhaps $20 million.

Once before, Tony had been on the brink of such a role. “My mother had said at one point she wanted me to be president [of the Vincent Astor Foundation],” Tony says. Tony was delighted by her change of heart. “I’d love that,” he told his mother. “I think it’d be great fun.” But then Brooke had shut down the charity and spent its assets.

Tony tried out the phrase “my foundation.” He’s considering giving to the American Museum of Natural History.

The losing institutions were furious. “Promises were made” was the word at the library’s trustee meetings. They’d known Brooke’s intentions for years. In anger, the library didn’t invite Tony to his mother’s tribute; nor did the Met.

To Tony, it seemed his growing list of enemies wanted to get at him however they could. In fact, a court evaluator found after extensive investigation that he hadn’t abused his mother, hadn’t reduced her medication or her doctor’s visits; nor did he restrict 911 calls. Her doctor ordered those. Tony didn’t restrict her diet; the court examined the grocery bills. Brooke’s beloved dogs were kept from her, but only because they cut her increasingly fragile skin.

And yet, it’s true that on Tony’s watch her way of life frayed. There was a draft under her bedroom windows; an awning was tattered on the terrace, so she couldn’t take the sun. She had always loved fresh flowers—she’d filled her apartment with them. Tony decreed that flowers were only to be in the rooms she used—and purchased at the local market. Beloved staff members were gone. And the remaining staff feuded. After Tony and Charlene fired the chauffeur, no one stepped forward to walk the dogs. Brooke’s pantry became a dog run. Tony perhaps didn’t even know.

For Philip and Annette, it was so sad. No one was managing Brooke’s care, her life, for her benefit, they thought. It looked all the more scandalous to them because, while effecting practical economies in Brooke’s life, Tony had a new yacht (for which his mother paid the taxes). He embarked on a leisurely summer at Cove End. Holly Hill was shuttered. Tony and Charlene were busy leading Brooke’s life, and with Brooke’s money, while, the charge went, her Park Avenue staff bickered over who would clean the couch.

Why the thrift? “It was Brooke’s money!” said one of Annette’s friends.

Chase’s investigators, starting with that premise, tracked the money. “There were a bunch of transactions during a three-year or so period implemented by Mr. Marshall for Mr. Marshall’s benefit which, we believe, [were] never knowingly consented to by Mrs. Astor and never authorized by her,” Leslie Fagen, the Paul, Weiss attorney representing Chase, told the court. (“Bogus and cruel,” retorts Ken Warner, Tony’s attorney.) Tony, who’d long held Brooke’s power of attorney, signed her checks.

In 2002, Tony says, he stumbled onto a buyer for the Childe Hassam painting. Brooke told a friend she felt pressured to sell it to support her lifestyle. But Tony says Brooke jumped at the chance. “How much did he offer?” she asked. For Chase, the suspicious act is not the sale for $10 million, but the commission. Tony took $2 million. “She wanted me to have it,” says Tony.

The next year, in August 2003, she gave Tony $5 million; “I do want you to have enough money to provide for Charlene on your death,” says a letter she signed on August 12. (“It didn’t come out of the blue,” says Charlene. “Her wanting to help me was a constant conversation for the eighteen years that I’ve known Tony.”) The same year, she deeded him her beautiful Maine property. Tony was always to get it in the wills, but only if he survived his mother. Tony quickly deeded it to Charlene. (Estate planning, thought Tony. He didn’t want his children to have it.)

In 2005, he gave himself a bonus, $2.4 million over two years. For someone with oversight of $82 million, this may not be excessive. He says Brooke’s accountant calculated the bonus. But Brooke didn’t know. “If mother was interested in financial details, I’m sure she would have agreed,” says Tony. Tony didn’t feel he did anything wrong. People told him he was underpaid. “In retrospect, I shouldn’t have done it,” he says. “It doesn’t look good.”


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