Finally, in 1990, the divorce was finalized, a milestone that solved little. Each stuck to his or her own version. Patricia believes he lost his way, strayed from their vows, forgot about his family. “There was something else that was more important to him.”
“What is that?” I ask.
“Well, he’s very rich,” she says.
As Patricia saw it, he loved his money more than her.
The divorce was a disaster, too. Steve gave Patricia $1 million in cash and their East End Avenue apartment, which he considered more than fair. He’d first declared his net worth at $16.9 million, according to a July 1, 1988, disclosure. Later, he wrote off $8.75 million of that as a bad real-estate investment—one focus of Patricia’s lawsuit—and recalculated his worth at $8.2 million. Thus, he later wrote, Patricia got more than half, a figure arrived at by valuing their East End apartment at $3.8 million.
As for monthly support, he first agreed to $3,730 for the kids and household costs (plus he paid for camp and school and other expenses). All told, in 1990, he spent $125,619.30 on Patricia and the children. It’s a measly sum compared to his income—$4.3 million in 1989, according to a copy of his income-tax statement, and nearly $12 million the year before. But Steve thought that he had more than met his obligation. He wasn’t required, and he certainly wouldn’t volunteer, to pay for “spousal maintenance.” He suggested Patricia get a job, perhaps as a general contractor, for which she’d shown an aptitude in selling their seven other properties. Or maybe she should write that script she’d talked about.
In 1991, just a year after the divorce judgment, Patricia returned to court. She was broke. The real-estate market had followed the stock market into collapse, and she hadn’t been able to sell the East Side apartment. “[Steve’s ex-]wife and children are on the verge of being put out on the street because his wife … is virtually penniless,” her lawyer wrote. Patricia clearly hadn’t managed her money optimally. Her own lawyer seemed to commiserate with Steve. “I readily concede that she needs guidance [with money],” he wrote. (There was an $80,000 bill from Bergdorf.)
Steve’s response to the mother of his children was, essentially, tough luck. She’d made her deal, let her live by it. That she was back in court so soon was “chutzpah,” Steve wrote. He even found fault with a $50,000 gift she’d made to her mother. “If she is in as bad financial shape as she claims she should get this money back from her mother,” he wrote.
The family they’d both once wanted was caught between them. Steve worked at being a decent father, though it was sometimes a challenge. Patricia complained to the judge that one afternoon Steve left the kids, then 10 and 5, to watch TV in his apartment while he headed to the gym. “The health club [was] located in my building [and I went] for an hour or so,” he wrote, arguing that it was all part of “a pathetic vindictive attempt” to alienate his children from him.
And to Steve, she seemed to be succeeding. As a 10-year-old, their daughter complained to him that he didn’t “give her mother enough money.” “She is fighting her mother’s battles,” Steve wrote later.
The affidavits read like a screaming match, but, the anger temporarily spent, Steve and Patricia managed to negotiate a settlement. Steve made several accommodations and in 1992 raised his monthly contribution to $10,400. In 1996, it climbed to $16,000, and from 2000 through 2003, he paid $18,000 per month in child support, which is tax-free to her, plus school tuition and “extraordinary” expenses. (In 2004, as the younger went to college, he reduced the payment to $9,000.)
It was, in Steve’s universe, not a lot of money. But he felt it represented an instance of generosity, and it exasperated him that he couldn’t get an occasional thank-you and some respect. Deep down, he viewed himself as “a softy” and not cheap, as he told one friend, and he couldn’t understand why Patricia wouldn’t see him that way.
In 2000, he even insisted on moving Patricia and her kids into a bigger place, but that became yet another case study in family dysfunction. Steve was renovating his Greenwich mansion and thought it was time to also improve his children’s living conditions—the son’s bedroom was a converted dining room. He got Patricia a 2,340-square-foot three-bedroom on Central Park West, renovated it for her, whatever she wanted. But Patricia had to move out during the renovation, and she felt evicted. To add to her sense of injury, Steve and his new wife, Alexandra, whom he married in 1992, kept the title in their name, giving her a $1,471.49-a-month lease in perpetuity. In Steve’s mind, it was for her own good. That at least kept her from mortgaging the place and running through the money and ending up homeless. In Patricia’s eyes, it also kept her subservient, a vassal of the wealthy lord, where once they’d been equals. His so-called generosity enraged her.