As he entered his 80s, MGM mogul Kirk Kerkorian didn't relish the prospect of a public court battle with a woman less than half his age. And so, over the last six years, the billionaire paid more than $10 million to keep former tennis pro Lisa Bonder Kerkorian happy and silent about their relationship, according to a lawsuit that offers the first glimpse of his side of the story.
Lisa Kerkorian went public this month with a 33-page declaration filed in the couple's divorce file. She laid bare details of their lavish lifestyle and asked for a record $320,000 a month in child support for their 3-year-old daughter.
Kirk Kerkorian has fired back with a 21-page lawsuit accusing her of violating confidentiality clauses about their decade-long relationship, marriage and divorce.
Kerkorian says he bought her houses in Beverly Hills. He gave her $1 million to move to New York. He forgave her debts. And in August 1999, nearly a year and a half after she gave birth to daughter Kira, he called in the lawyers, acknowledged paternity and married Bonder--albeit for one month.
All Kerkorian asked in return, according to the lawsuit filed Friday by his business lawyer, Terry Christensen, were six signed confidentiality agreements in which she swore to keep his finances and personal life secret.
Kirk Kerkorian says in the legal papers that his ex-wife, 36, kept upping the ante: $1 million in 1996, $4 million in 1997, $2.5 million in 1999, along with forgiving $2.9 million of her "personal debt," and $3 million in 2000 to fix up her Beverly Hills house, which he agreed to buy for $8 million. (The sale never went through and he has placed a lien on the property.)
As her money demands increased, Kerkorian's court papers say, so did her threats "to reveal any and all information available to her."
Lisa Kerkorian's lawyer, Stephen A. Kolodny, said the allegations are untrue. "This lawsuit's stupid," he said.
The suit, filed in Santa Monica, seeks to cancel the real estate agreement and award damages for her alleged breaches of the other contracts. He also asked the court to order Lisa Kerkorian and Kolodny to stop divulging personal details in public records.
Kirk Kerkorian says she disregarded Kira's best interests by making the dispute part of the public divorce case when it could have been handled discreetly through the sealed paternity case. No hearings have been scheduled.
The escalating dispute is about how much money it takes to properly raise a billionaire's daughter, but the child in question has been eclipsed by the personal charges and countercharges exchanged by the litigating parents.
Kira turns 4 in March, two days before her parents are due in court in downtown Los Angeles for a hearing on the child-support dispute.
As it now stands--and the lawyers say there is more to come--the court battle is a he said/she said spat, with each party using court filings to get in the last word and malign the other.
He said: She's a gold digger who engaged in "a six-year-long campaign" to part him from millions of dollars, "using methods ranging from pleas of poverty to various threats," not the least of which was to tell all. They haven't lived together since 1995, and she's using the child "as a pawn in an elaborate plan to obtain for herself even larger sums of money." He refers to Kira in court papers as "defendant's daughter," never as his own.
She said: He's a commitment-phobic control freak who walked around with $10,000 in his pocket and dropped $45,000 a couple of times a year for custom-fitted Brioni clothes. They cohabited, off and on, until August 2000, when she caught him out to dinner with another woman. "I should not have to be a slave to Kirk's personal manipulation, abusive personality, economic coercion and financial control in order to provide Kira with that to which she is entitled."
Because of the heady amounts involved in the child support case, the dispute has gained national notoriety--despite the millions Kerkorian paid to maintain his privacy. On television, it is referred to as the case of the billionaire baby.
As the ex-couple's lawyers, Kolodny and Dennis M. Wasser, appeared earlier this week on the "Today" show's split screen, anchor Katie Couric expressed amazement that the child's pets, including a bunny, require $436 a month for sustenance.
What does the bunny eat? Beluga? Couric asked.
The rabbit has become emblematic of the issues in what legal experts say is a test case for wealthy parents and their children. Kerkorian was quietly paying far more child support than the courts have ordered any other father to pay.
In court documents, Lisa Kerkorian lists Kira's monthly expenses, including: $144,000 for travel; $14,000 for parties and play dates; $7,000 for charity; $4,300 for food; $2,500 for movies, theaters and outings; $1,000 for toys, videos and books; and $436 for care of Kira's bunny and other pets.
In her declaration, Lisa Kerkorian says that after spending nearly a decade with her billionaire boyfriend, she decided to leave him in 1997. Then, she learned she was pregnant with Kira.
After Kira was born, Kerkorian agreed to pay $50,000 a month in child support, then $75,000. Lisa Kerkorian filed her suit after he cut off the extra cash and dropped the child support to $50,000.