Rubin: The Taubman feud — bigger money, same old story
I’m pretty good at being snarky, but I know when I’m overmatched, so I’ll defer in this case to a British tabloid that snarks for a living.
The Daily Mail wrote a splendidly catty story last week involving the widow of the late Bloomfield Hills shopping mall tycoon A. Alfred Taubman and his three children from his first marriage.
Judy Taubman arrived at their $7.75 million London flat after flying in from New York. With her, she brought 10 suitcases and a certain expectation of being let inside.
The Daily Mail’s story about what ensued began this way:
“Step-families usually come with baggage. And as billionaire’s widow Judy Taubman stood angrily outside her Mayfair flat — 10 suitcases piled up on the pavement — she seemed like the perfect example.”
Blended families are always complicated. Many among us know how challenging it can be to meld holiday traditions, for example.
Or, there was the time a court had to decide whether the estate of Henry Ford II would pay for new cushions for the outdoor furniture at third wife Kathy DuRoss Ford’s home in Palm Beach.
In this case, the quandary involved when the people from Sotheby’s could come to pick up a couple of paintings, how many of them could drop by, and how they could best stay out of the way of the maid.
It doesn’t take a monocle, of course, to read between the lines and see other issues between Judy Taubman, 70, and stepkids Gayle Taubman Kalisman, 64, Robert Taubman, 62, and William Taubman, 57.
Alfred Taubman died in April at 91. He left behind his not fully harmonious family and an art collection that might bring more than $500 million when it goes up for auction at Sotheby’s beginning in November.
Two relatively humble pieces — Judy told the Daily Mail they’re worth $350,000 each, tops — were still on the wall at the apartment in London.
The kids had arranged for a team of experts from Sotheby’s to collect them Friday.
Again, quoting the story:
“Mrs. Taubman said that as she would be flying in on Friday, only one expert would be given admission to her home then, with the larger team having to wait a few days until she had unpacked her bags with the assistance of her maid.”
Feeling strongly about the whole thing, the kids had the lock changed and posted a security guard at the door.
While the flat will become Judy’s when the estate is settled next month, she said, it’s controlled for now by the children.
That left her on the outside for eight hours, until Sotheby’s sent over a couple of guys and a van — though if she wanted it, at least she had a change of clothes.
The Daily Mail ran a handsome photo of Taubman on the sidewalk with her matching gray bags, none of which would have fit beneath the seat in front of her.
Unfortunately, we don’t have the rights to it, but you can see it if you drop by DailyMail.co.uk.
Judy Taubman, a former Miss Israel and the 1962 Miss Universe runner-up, pointed out that she had been married to her renowned philanthropist second husband for 33 years, and “he will be turning in his grave at how his children are behaving.”
“We had a lovely life together,” she said, with additional homes in New York and Palm Beach along with the one in Michigan she didn’t like to visit very often for reasons that seem increasingly apparent.
“He would cry seeing this happen,” she said. “He left the estate in the control of his children, because he loves them and trusted his children to do best.”
She added that Alfred “would never have expected this.”
The Daily Mail apparently saw it coming, though. Or maybe when you’re the masters of snark, you just learn to be prepared, in case a well-dressed American and her entourage of suitcases suddenly block a sidewalk outside a late billionaire’s condo.