After the new year’s trip to St. Barts, Barkin and Perelman were still not on speaking terms, her friends say. Instead of flying back with him to New York on his Gulfstream, she and members of her family flew home separately. Inside his townhouse, they kept their distance. They had fought throughout the marriage, Barkin told friends. She figured they’d eventually work things out; maybe they’d go see the marriage counselor again, like they had the last time they almost broke up. Only a month before, Perelman had given her a $1.5 million ring over dinner at Nobu, a friend of Barkin’s says. But about a week and a half after St. Barts, Perelman told her he wanted a divorce.
On January 20, news of their divorce became public, and Perelman sought to refute claims that the impetus for the split was financial. A friend of his says that he felt Barkin was too tough to please and he could no longer make her happy. “She’s a brutal killer,” another Perelman friend says. “She’s tough as shit.”
A Barkin friend has another theory: “The whole story here is that Ron Perelman couldn’t recognize what he had to lose. Finally, he had someone who loved him and his family, someone he couldn’t buy with all the money in the world, and in the end it came down to what it all always comes down to with him: money and control.”
A Perelman security guard, who has worked for him for more than ten years, offers this view: “They both seemed miserable. He didn’t seem to have a good time with anything he did.” With Barkin, it was the same, the guard says. “They deserved each other.”
Perelman and Barkin and their lawyers haggled over the final-settlement terms. A Perelman friend with knowledge of the agreement claims Barkin was entitled to $3 million per year in alimony if they divorced. A friend of Barkin’s familiar with the deal puts that number at $2 million. Also in dispute is a clause that allowed Barkin to receive $5 million to purchase a home. Perelman doubled that fee to $10 million as a sign of good faith and generosity, the Perelman friend says. The Barkin friend acknowledges the doubling of the fee but says it was done only after Barkin surrendered her share of an asset they both owned, worth about $5 million. In all, the Perelman friend claims Perelman gave Barkin some $60 million in the divorce settlement, including about $35 million in what they call “convertible assets,” meaning the lavish gifts he gave her during their marriage. A Barkin friend claims Perelman is trying to inflate the size of the settlement by including those gifts in the $60 million figure, and insists Barkin received “not one penny more” than $20 million.
“This wasn’t such a bad deal for both of them,” says Adams, the Post gossip columnist. “He got a Hollywood name, and she got a lot of great jewelry and cash in the bank. For five years, it was a great investment. You don’t necessarily marry a Ronald Perelman for his looks. He’s not Kevin Costner, you know.” To understand their breakup, she says, you have to understand Perelman’s track record with women. “He tires easily,” she says. “First he married into the Jewish money, then he married the Jewish princess and got to know the New York money contingent, then he met the Hollywood people through Patricia Duff. Ellen was really a continuation of that. Now, if he marries again, it will have to be European royalty,” she says. “Then he would have had one of everything.”
Moving out was a debacle. Armed guards had watched Barkin pack her things. On February 9, wearing white sport socks, jeans, and a shaggy wool robe, Barkin stepped out of their townhouse and lashed out at a Post photographer, allegedly saying, “If you don’t get the fuck out of my face, I am going to kick you so hard in the balls you won’t know what hit you!” Some days earlier, Perelman had cut off rent to her mother’s apartment, friends of Barkin say. On Valentine’s Day, a judge finalized their divorce (it’s not clear how the couple divorced so quickly).
On a recent Friday afternoon, outside her Chelsea office, Barkin appeared rattled as she left the building and made her way down 27th Street. Dressed in worn black jeans and sunglasses, she refused to talk about the breakup, except to say that she felt that Perelman’s public-relations machine was trying to spin the story his way. “It’s like oil and water,” she said. The truth will “rise to the top.”