Ronald Perelman and his daughter Samantha
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Next week billionaire corporate raider Ronald Perelman and his daughter Samantha by his second wife Claudia, née Cohen, are going to court again in a long running dispute with his daughter’s late grandfather’s estate.
Perelman and Cohen had divorced amicably in 1994 after nine years of marriage together, with Claudia walking off at the time with a reported US$80 million settlement.
Their only daughter Samantha is today 23 years old.
Claudia’s earlier settlement with Perelman when they divorced is not the issue in this dispute, however, rather her inheritance from her own family which is a very successful business family from New Jersey. Claudia’s father was Robert Cohen who ran the Hudson News Group, a retail and wholesale news and magazine distribution group that today includes retail sales outlets in all major airports nationwide.
The retail portion of the company began with just a single small stall at La Guardia airport in 1987, and today it has 580 outlets in 70 airports across North America. In 2008 the retail portion of the group merged into Swiss public company Dufry Group.
The wholesale part of Hudson News is still run today by Robert’s son James, who is the only survivor of Robert’s three children. He also sits on the Board of Dufry and is one of its largest shareholders. Clearly he must have been one of the primary beneficiaries of his father’s estate.
Where the plot thickens a little is that it seems that, even after many years of happy divorce, Perelman was chosen by Claudia close to her death from ovarian cancer in 2007 to be her executor.
In the final years of her struggle with cancer Perelman it seems had ensured, and paid for, her continuous access to the best then available cancer treatments.
Claudia Cohen / Getty
As her executor this empowered him to then sue Claudia’s father Robert after her death for, as he and his daughter have claimed, reducing Claudia’s and Samantha’s inheritance. Robert also had five other grandchildren when he finally died himself in 2012 at the age of 86, survived by his son James who was also by then running the family businesses. The first time around Perelman lost and was ordered to pay Cohen US$2 million in costs.
Perelman, it now seems, is again seeking restitution in the courts on behalf of his daughter Samantha, who is now asserting to the courts this is also very much what she wants as well.
So far the combined legal bills of the two sides are reported to have possibly already exceeded US$20 million, with no sign of resolution in sight.
Robert Cohen’s granddaughter Samantha, and Ronald Perelman, are essentially claiming that her uncle James manipulated his elderly father into altering his will and reducing Samantha’s mother’s share of her father’s estate before he died.
Lawyers for James Cohen say in reply that it is actually Samantha who is being manipulated by her father, in an attempt at a backdoor takeover of the Hudson companies and other family interests, now controlled by James.
Samantha herself of course denies this; in a statement in august of this year she has stated: “I’m not a corporate raider, and I’m no one’s pawn”…”What I am is a young woman who wants to see that my grandfather’s and mother’s intentions are carried out”.
In various guises this battle has been continuing since 2008, i.e. beginning in the year immediately after Claudia’s death but actually three years before Robert’s own decease and it is clear it not over yet.
There have already been many more twists and turns to this little tale than we can provide in this brief summary, and doubtless there will be more ahead as well.
However, when we read histories of litigation like these, even in such summary form, it is perhaps why some wise people have stated that “the rich do not suffer like the rest of us, for them it is clearly much worse as they no longer have mere survival to worry about.”