Never underestimate the wealth of a New York woman. About two dozen of them can claim a net worth of at least $100 million, and dozens more are worth tens of millions each.
Manhattan men make headlines with paper fortunes and power games, but an article in Town & Country said Manhattan women own huge and enduring fortunes of their own.
"Women don't exaggerate the way men do," said Julien Studley, head of a Manhattan commercial real estate company. "There are no women like Sam Lefrak or Donald Trump, who have to boost their egos by exaggerating their worth."
Studley said women's total assets are more likely to reflect their true net worth. Men's visible assets may be offset by hidden debt.
Few Bankrupt Women
"Women don't tend to gamble the way men do," Studley said. "They have a nesting instinct. A successful businessman puts everything on the line all the time; he may go bankrupt two or three times. You never hear of women going bankrupt."
Most of New York's richest women got there via inheritance, widowhood or divorce. Others made fortunes on their own. The common denominator is that they control wealth in their own right. Among those with more than $250 million:
Anne Henricks Bass, mid-40s, separated from billionaire Dallas oil heir Sid Richardson Bass. The divorce settlement now pending could leave her with as much as $500 million.
Estee Lauder, 80, widow and cosmetics queen. Estee and her two sons share ownership of a company worth well over $1 billion.
Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger, 96, widow, lifelong den mother of the New York Times as, successively, daughter, wife, mother-in-law and mother of four Times publishers. She and her son, publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, are co-trustees of the Ochs Estate, which owns a controlling interest in the New York Times Co., worth more than $800 million.
Nineteen women are worth more than $100 million, from Jennifer Johnson Duke, 47, granddaughter of Johnson & Johnson co-founder Robert Wood Johnson (at least $100 to $150 million) to Yoko Ono, 55, widow of Beatle John Lennon (estimated at $150 million).
There are three Rockefellers and a du Pont in this section: Mary Jane du Pont Lunger, 71, daughter of du Pont heir Philip Frances du Pont; Mary Rockefeller Morgan and Ann Clark Rockefeller Roberts, Nelson's daughters, and Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller, 78, widow of John D. Rockefeller III.
Also in this group is Helen Hunt Kreiling, one of four children of Texas oilman H.L. Hunt's "secret" third marriage, legally adopted after the death of his first wife.
Another famous name in the group is Frances Gilmore Scaife, estranged wife of Richard Mellon Scaife, great-grandson of banking patriarch Thomas Mellon. His net worth is believed to exceed $500 million; her settlement should exceed $100 million.
$50 Million or More
Worth more than $50 million are Brooke Russell Astor, widow of Vincent Astor; Drue Maher Heinz, widow of the late Henry J. Heinz Jr., chairman of H.J. Heinz Co.; and Frances Loeb Lear, divorced from TV producer Norman Lear.
Also in this group are Dina Merrill, daughter of cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post; Elisabeth Claiborne Ortenberg, head of Liz Claiborne Inc.; Abby Rockefeller Simpson, great-great-granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller, and Martha Crawford (Sunny) Von Bulow, who has been in what doctors say is an irreversible coma and whose second husband, Claus Von Bulow, was acquitted of her attempted murder.
In the at-least-$25 million category are two Kennedy women, Dan Rottenberg wrote in the October issue of Town & Country. One is Patricia Kennedy Lawford, sister of John F. Kennedy. The other is his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who won a settlement of more than $20 million from Onassis' estate.