Plundering, lying, adultery - the makings of a good television series, right? In real life, it's the stuff of a Palm Beach divorce to divide a real estate empire - an empire worth approximately $750 million.
And oh yes - the divorcing couple happens to be eighty-eight and near-ninety.
"Lovey" and Burt Handelsman have been married almost seventy years. In those years, they amassed a commercial real estate empire which includes buildings on Worth Avenue and its side streets that are home to Ralph Lauren, Giorgio's, Brooks Brothers, and Jimmy Choo, among others. Their holdings reach from the Hogs Breath Saloon in Key West to Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, the Catskills, New York City, and Greenwich, Connecticut.
Their condo above Worth Avenue and their palatial home in White Plains have been outfitted for handicapped access. "Lovey" needs a wheelchair, due to arthritis.
The reason for the divorce? In 2008 "Lovey" discovered Burt was having an affair with their longtime family attorney, 62-year-old Jane Rankin of Ft. Lauderdale. "Lovey" overheard her husband tell Rankin on the phone he "loved her and missed her terribly." Subsequently, "Lovey" discovered Rankin coming out of the Palm Beach condo one afternoon, the access to which demanded a secret code for the elevator.
"Lovey" has not had sex with Burt since, though she maintains residence at the condo and even shares a "very large bed" with Burt. Despite Circuit Court Judge Scott Suskauer's granting "Lovey" sole temporary use of the apartment, Burt has refused to move out. "Lovey" petitioned for temporary alimony and maintains a bodyguard 24/7 outside, due to Burt's "mean-spirited insolence."
Burt now admits that Jane Rankin's portion of a story in November, 2017, helped commit "a fraud on the court" when Rankin helped him lie about the so-called discovery of a falsified document that Burt tried to use to strip his children of control of vast amounts of the empire.
The couple's children are fighting to make sure their father has no claim to property they now control from offices in White Plains, N.Y. If the marriage terminates before "Lovey," under Florida law she would be entitled to 50 percent of the assets, which she plans to pass on to her children and grandchildren. If "Lovey" dies before the judge signs off on the divorce, her share could fall to 30 percent. Burt has filed separate lawsuits against his children, claiming they stole property from him. They have counter-sued.
Judge Suskauer has pleaded for months with the couple and their children to resolve their differences and divide their holdings without court interference. The division is complicated because even if they could all agree on the value of the properties, in many cases ownership is split among the children, "Lovey," Burt, and others. "Lovey" and the children insist they won't own property with Burt.
Burt had removed contents of safes from local banks to other banks. Still, he claims the marriage is not broken, saying he "cooks for her, cleans for her, helps her dress, helps her get to and from the bathroom." I wonder what he does for Jane?
- Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
- Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in English, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with MA from R.I. School of Design. Barking Cat Books published my first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. My humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. In 2018 Barking Cat Books published my SURVIVING YOUR DREAM VACATION: 75 RULES TO KEEP YOUR COMPANION TALKING TO YOU ON THE ROAD. See website By CLICKING HERE.