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The War for Ted Ammon's Children

It’s been nearly two years since financier Ted Ammon was bludgeoned to death in his East Hampton home, in the middle of “the worst divorce in the world.” But only now is a grand jury weighing charges, as his estranged wife fights cancer, and his sister fights to keep the nanny from winning custody of their twins.


New Beginnings: Top, Ted and the twins, in Big Flower tees, celebrate his new company in 1993; below, Generosa and Pelosi in England last year.  

It was Easter weekend, 2001—six months before Ted Ammon was murdered—and Sandi Williams had taken the two flights from her home in Huntsville, Alabama, to visit her multimillionaire brother in New York. She remembers how Ted had been aching to get out to East Hampton with his two kids and three dogs: He’d even purchased a black Chevy Suburban for the occasion (deciding that neither his Porsche nor his BMW was up to the task), and he had arranged for Easter eggs to be hidden on the grounds of his gabled English-style country house on secluded Middle Lane.

Sandi had always thought of her younger brother as a man of action: He’d made his first $50 million deal before he was 40, as a star banker with the leveraged-buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., and a decade later he was still riding motorcycles and running marathons. But she had watched as his custody battle with his wife, a former artist and real-estate agent named Generosa, had chipped away at him. Pickups and drop-offs of the children, 11-year-old Ukrainian twins named Alexa and Gregory, were full-blown diplomatic disasters. Generosa—blonde, trim, and tightly wound—would pick fights on street corners, jabbing and poking at her husband as Ted, a lanky six foot four, bobbed and weaved, desperate not to provoke her.

Generosa had negotiated at the last minute for Good Friday with the children. On Saturday morning, Sandi and Ted went to collect them at the Stanhope Hotel, where Generosa was living with them and her new boyfriend, Dan Pelosi, while they were sinking more than $1 million of Ted’s money into the renovation of a $9 million townhouse on 87th Street just off Fifth Avenue. Alexa and Grego appeared at the elevator; their scowls suggested something was up. Accompanying them was Generosa’s butler, Steven Guderian, who would later sue Ted for millions of dollars in supposedly promised bonuses. “You tell your father what the truth is,” he instructed the kids as they left. Ted started seething.

“I thought, Ohhh, boy,” Sandi remembers. “These kids have been set up to make this weekend absolutely miserable.”

The kids waited to explode until, in the living room of Ted’s Fifth Avenue apartment, he asked them to get ready to go to the beach house, one of his five homes. That beach house was Mom’s, not Dad’s, they snapped; he had no business being in that beach house ever again. Then came the rough stuff: “Mom says you cheat at business! Mom says you have a secret girlfriend—and a 2-year-old son! Mom says you spy on us with hidden cameras! Mom says you should give her all the money! You can always make more!

Ted sat in silence, collecting himself, before he spoke: “None of what you just said is true. Your mother has told you lies about me.”

“No, she hasn’t!” Sandi remembers them crying, finishing each other’s sentences. “She wouldn’t lie to us!”

Ted took a deep breath. The son and the spying, he flatly denied; the girlfriend, he sidestepped.

“I’m separated,” he said. “I have dated several people. But there’s nobody I’m ready to introduce you to.”

“But we know all about Danny!”

The children didn’t really know everything about Dan Pelosi—as Ted had once remarked to a friend, Generosa’s boyfriend had a rap sheet “as long as my arm”—but he let that one pass. Instead, he let loose a brief salvo in his own defense. “I don’t cheat at business,” he said. “And I am furious that you would be told something like that.”

The egg hunt was canceled. A tense Manhattan Easter followed.

When Ted left KKR in 1992, he reshaped his life around his newly adopted children. Starting his own business, he’d take them along on private planes as he globe-trotted; in New York, he regularly skipped meetings to take them to ball games. Now they appeared to be slipping away. Sandi Williams considers herself a no-nonsense Southerner—by choice, not by birth; she and Ted grew up outside Buffalo—but even she found herself speechless. That weekend, she lost any hope for a domestic armistice. “For the first time,” she recalls, “I thought things wouldn’t ever calm down. I just thought, Generosa’s not gonna let go.”

In phone calls over the summer, Ted supplied Sandi with a play-by-play of his wife’s increasingly bizarre behavior: how she told the kids he was spying on them via a satellite dish on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; how she would run up tabs of tens of thousands of dollars at the Stanhope with her boyfriend, holding court at the bar for hours and leaving $200 tips. Sandi wasn’t exactly surprised. The previous year, Generosa sneaked through the doggy door of their beach house just before midnight, suspecting Ted was with a girlfriend, and, finding he was alone, screamed at him and even kicked one of the dogs while the children waited in a car outside.

“She’s crazy,” he’d say again and again.

But as summer turned to fall, Sandi and her husband, Bob, noticed that Ted’s mood had darkened. “She wants me dead,” they remember him saying. “I think she’s going to kill me.”

On Monday, October 22, 2001, Ted Ammon’s body was discovered in the bedroom of his house on Middle Lane. Police said he had been beaten to death, but there were no signs of a break-in; the house’s alarm system had been disarmed. Murder a short bicycle ride from the Spielbergs’ and the Seinfelds’ doesn’t happen every day: Rumors raged about a business deal gone sour, or, to the bafflement of Ted’s girlfriends, a disgruntled gay lover. But no one failed to notice that the electrician who had installed the alarm system was Dan Pelosi, the same hard-drinking, parole-violating ex-con who happened to be working for—and sleeping with—Generosa Ammon.

Ted’s friends waited, incredulous, as police failed to make arrests, much less name suspects; even now, nearly two years later, charges have yet to be filed. Twelve weeks after the murder, Generosa, still Ted’s wife at the time of his death and therefore the principal inheritor of his estate—now valued at $54 million—married Pelosi and whisked the children away to Coverwood, the Ammons’ 22-room mansion in Surrey, England. If they’d planned on making a new start of it, it didn’t pan out: Pelosi was forced to return a month later to face drunk-driving charges and was eventually jailed for four months. By spring 2002, Generosa had decamped with the twins from the seventeen-acre estate to a modest house in Dan’s working-class hometown of Center Moriches, Long Island. There she was diagnosed with breast cancer—which she blamed on Ted—and those close to her say she now has months, possibly weeks, to live.

Last week, on July 2, Generosa and the twins moved back to the scene of the crime—the house on Middle Lane. Pelosi stayed behind in Center Moriches. “I think he’s attracted attention that has violated her sense of privacy,” explains Generosa’s lawyer, Michael Dowd. “What she needs now is the capacity to rest and to be with her children.”

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