Friday, April 20, 2012

Ice Cold: A Break-Up Letter Worth Millions

C.C. Wang, the father of wedding dress designer Vera Wang, was a very rich oil tycoon.  Of interest to property profs, C.C. Wang's estate has just prevailed in a nasty bit of litigation with his mistress of 30 years, Betty Phillips.  Wang and Phillips met in the early 1980s and carried on a pretty hot & heavy affair over the course of two decades; he lavished her with millions of dollars worth of gifts, flew her all over the world, and gave her a black AmEx card.  

Everything went smoothly until Wang suffered a stroke in 2004, and Phillips rushed from Singapore to see him.  When Phillips arrived in New York she was handed a curt letter that set forth Wang's understanding of their "long term friendship:"

[B]y this letter I am making it absolutely clear to you as I did in the past, that I have no intention of marrying you and that under no circumstance whatsoever will we ever be married to each other. [...] Further, I have already adequately provided for you financially and there will be no further financial transfers from me to you. Please confirm that you waive any claim of any kind or nature against me, my family or my estate. [...] Please do not take the formality of this letter as an affront to you but only as a way of preserving the memories we have of our friendship over the years.

Zing. The letter closed with a request, "I would appreciate your signing the copy of this letter indicating your agreement to the foregoing."  In 2006, Wang passed away.  Betty Phillips brought suit, claiming she had a verbal promise from Wang that she would get a $10 million lump sum payment after his death, and $150,000 a year.

Well, a judge now says that Phillips' signature on the letter means she isn’t entitled to any part of C.C. Wang's fortune.  “There is no proof she was forced to sign the letter,” the judge wrote Wednesday.  (see here for an actual copy of the letter)

Steve Clowney

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