It’s hard to feel too bad for Steve Cohen, a billionaire hedge fund manager and one of the richest people in the world.
He’s also the father of seven children, including two with his first wife, Patricia, whom he divorced in 1990.
Even though Cohen remarried in 1992, his relationship with his ex-wife has persisted over the decades, swinging between acts of great generosity and epic battles of wills.
As late as 2009, almost twenty years after the union dissolved, Patricia filed a legal challenge alleging that Cohen hid assets during their divorce worth more than $5 million, to which she was entitled to half plus interest.
While most people are able to move on after a failed marriage, there are the occasional cases where the animosity lingers and the battle rages on.
It wasn’t always this way for Steve and Patricia. One rainy summer evening in 1979, Patricia ducked into an Upper East Side bar to wait out the torrents coming down outside.
Steve, then 22, approached her, bragging that he was already a Wall Street trader. She was four years his senior, worked for a publishing company, loved literature, and dated writers.
Six months later, the two were married, and just over a year after that, their first child was born. It was a happy time for the young family.
During their decade together, Steve burnished his credentials on Wall Street and amassed a fortune valued at nearly $17 million by the time they divorced. Their marriage featured the extravagance of wealth, with multiple homes to their names, including a 5,500 sq ft apartment on East End Avenue, first class trips around the world, and clothing bills that could total $50,000 a month.
Patricia was a stay-at-home mom who decorated and managed the couple’s properties, including sales of seven of them.
Their divorce, which was finalized in 1990, seemed generous to Steve, but Patricia felt slighted by the terms. The settlement awarded $1 million in cash to Patricia, as well as the East End Avenue apartment the couple had shared, then valued at $3.8 million.
Steve agreed to pay $3,730 a month in child support, plus the costs of camps, private schools, and other child rearing costs. All in all, Steve spent about $125,000 on the kids and his ex-wife in 1990.
Trouble would arise between the parties nearly two decades later because of a financial transaction that occurred during the divorce. In the initial financial disclosures provided in the case, Steve estimated his net worth at $16.9 million. While the matter unfolded, an investment deal with a former employee went south, allowing Cohen to recalculate his net worth downward to $8.2 million.
What Patricia didn’t know at the time is that Cohen sued the former employee to recover some $7 million in losses. Though his final award was only a few hundred thousand dollars, learning years later that he had taken these steps caused her to rethink everything about their divorce, the settlement, and his behavior toward her and their children in the years since.
It has not been an easy experience for the former couple.
In 1991, Patricia brought Steve back into court when she had run out of money.
He pointed to an $80,000 bill from Bergdorf and a $50,000 cash gift she made to her mother. She pointed to their children.
By 1992, he increased his $3,730 child support to $10,400 a month, all tax free to his ex-wife.
In 1996, he increased it again to $16,000. For the years 2000-2003, he paid $18,000 a month in child support, plus school tuition and so-called “extraordinary expenses.”
Steve remarried in 1992 to current wife Alexandra. The two live in a mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, and have five children together.
They own a famed art collection, including pieces from Picasso, Cezanne, Koons, de Kooning, Warhol, Van Gogh, Jasper Johns, Damien Hirst, and even one of Monet’s Water Lilies.
They are generous philanthropists who still bargain hunt at Costco, and together, they have managed finances for two families – their own and Patricia’s – for more than two decades.
In 2000, Steve purchased a 2,300 sq ft, three-bedroom apartment on Central Park West for Patricia and their two children. He offered to renovate it for her, which forced her to move out for a period of time, causing anger.
He and Alexandra kept the title in their names, but gave Patricia a permanent, $1,500 a month lease on the space, which caused her to feel like she was being kept by her ex-husband, a subservient role that outraged her further.
Meanwhile, Steve had founded SAC Capital Advisors and grown his fortune into the billions. He was a rich and famous man, and in 2006, Patricia saw a 60 Minutes episode featuring a segment on his investment practices, with allegations of misconduct.
This triggered her to go digging deeper into the records of their divorce and his public history, and for three years she collected evidence that she believed pointed to fraud in his financial disclosures during their divorce.
In 2009, more than 20 years after Steve filed for divorce from Patricia, she filed suit in Manhattan federal court, alleging that Steve had swindled her out of $5.5 million.
The case has dragged out for more than six years, with some elements of the case dismissed and others delayed.
Finally, in May 2016, Judge Loretta Preska threw out the suit, ruling, “There is no evidence that Steven concealed any assets from Patricia during their divorce.”
Noting that, “Patricia has not produced evidence of any bank account, canceled checks, property, or other assets belonging to Steven which he did not disclose to her,” the judge ended the case, though Patricia has 30 days in which she can file an appeal if she chooses.
Divorce, especially when you have kids, is really tough, but it doesn’t have to consume the rest of your life.
When you’re considering divorce in Queens, call the attorneys at Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino at 718-523-1111 for a free consultation with experienced divorce lawyers.