SANTA ANA — Claire Maglica broke down on the witness stand Friday, tearfully remembering the day when the flashlight magnate who was her companion of 23 years told her she was neither his wife nor his business partner, but merely his "employee."
After returning from a business trip in January, 1992, Claire Maglica said, she inadvertently learned that Anthony Maglica was trying to transfer company stock to his children from a previous marriage.
Claire Maglica, who contends that Anthony Maglica always assured her she was co-owner of the 600-employee Mag Industries Inc., confronted him about it.
"He said, 'What business is it of yours?' " Claire Maglica, her voice hoarse and breaking, recounted for jurors Friday during the couple's palimony trial. "I said, 'I'm your wife,' and he said to me, 'You got a piece of paper to prove it?' "
She said that when she asked him, "If I'm not your wife, then what am I?" he retorted, "You're my employee."
Claire Maglica, 60, took her former lover to trial this week, alleging he broke an oral contract they made when they met in 1971 to live out of "one pocket" and share everything.
Anthony Maglica, 64, counters that the two signed a "separate property agreement" in 1977 vowing never to merge their assets. Burned once by divorce, he says he was always clear about wanting full control of the company assets, along with the many houses they purchased, all of them in his name.
The couple never married, but lived together for 23 years. She is seeking at least $150 million, or what she estimates are half of the assets the wildly successful company has accrued during the couple's years together.
Claire Maglica is executive vice president of the company and Anthony Maglica is president. The couple, who lived together in their Anaheim Hills home until only last week, are known in Orange County for their contributions to the Republican Party and the generosity they showered on a boy blinded by shrapnel who they rescued last year from Bosnia. Anthony Maglica spent most of his youth in Croatia.
The bulk of Claire's testimony Friday centered on her duties at the Ontario-based Mag Industries, where the pair had twin desks in the executive office. According to her testimony and Mag Industry letters and memos presented to the jury Friday, the couple were the only ones who had the authority to make sensitive company decisions, including matters involving patents, trademarks and purchasing.
"Basically, there was nothing done at Mag without my direction and counsel," Claire Maglica told jurors.
Although they never married, she also testified that Anthony Maglica always introduced her as his wife and that the media showered them with attention for starting a "Mom and Pop" empire.
Anthony Maglica has filed a cross-complaint alleging she embezzled more than $380,000 from him by secretly setting up a joint bank account, pilfering his checks from the household mail and forging his signature to deposit them in the account. She then used the money to buy clothing and jewelry for herself and gifts for her children and grandchildren, also from a previous marriage, according to his attorney, Dennis M. Wasser.
Years ago, Claire took on Anthony Maglica's name and the couple was known--by presidents from here to Croatia, socialites and politicians--as Mr. and Mrs. Maglica.
Anthony Maglica never corrected anyone for referring to Claire as his wife or co-owner of Mag and, in fact, did so himself, said her attorney, John W. Keker.
Claire Maglica said Anthony never mentioned the 1977 written agreement until after their relationship began deteriorating in 1992. She said she signed a document in 1977, but believed it said they would be legally married at some point.
Common-law marriage is not recognized in California, but palimony cases have been decided on the basis of whether a contract or agreement between the couple existed and was not honored.
The trial resumes Monday before Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Polis and is being shown live on Courtroom Television Network.