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Irvine Co.'s Bren Is Sued for More Child Support

May 14, 2003|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles woman sued real estate billionaire Donald L. Bren on Tuesday alleging fraud and breach of contract by withdrawing promised emotional and financial support for their two children.

Jennifer Gold filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of a daughter, 15, and son, 11.

The suit, alleging unspecified damages, contends that Bren acknowledged paternity of the children and promised to support them "in a manner and an amount commensurate with his wealth."

The suit indicates that he has paid child support, but not the amount that would have been ordered by a court.

Through a spokesman, Bren called the suit unfortunate and "utterly without merit." He reportedly hasn't had any direct contact or communication with Gold or the children for 10 years.

"For more than 15 years, Mr. Bren has fulfilled every child support obligation to Jennifer McKay Gold in accordance with written agreements executed in good faith and with the assistance of legal counsel for the best interests of the children," Bren spokesman Larry Thomas said.

"It is absolutely untrue that Mr. Bren ever has failed to honor those agreements, and in fact has exceeded the terms mutually agreed upon."

Gold's attorney, Hillel Chodos of Los Angeles, said Gold tried to keep the dispute out of the courts.

"It's very sad and very unfortunate because these children are quite delightful," Chodos said. "It's a shame he's had no contact with them."

The suit was filed five years to the week after Bren, owner of the Irvine Co. and one of the state's largest land holders, married his third wife, entertainment lawyer Brigitte Muller. He has two adult sons from his first marriage, a daughter from his second and a fourth child with a New York City artist.

Bren, 71, is estimated to be worth $4 billion, according to Forbes magazine, which ranks him as 39th among the richest Americans and the 78th-wealthiest person in world.

In the suit, Gold said she agreed to private, "extra-judicial agreements" for voluntary child support because Bren was wary of publicity and "extremely eager to avoid any public court proceedings pertaining to his obligation of child support."

Within the last two years, however, an unspecified incident occurred between Bren and Gold that "made it clear to plaintiffs that the defendant never intended to honor his promises, representations and assurances, and that he would not do so voluntarily."

Bren has since become increasingly cold and distant toward the children, the suit contended, and has refused to sign a legally binding agreement with Gold for their economic welfare.

Bren and Gold, then known as Jennifer McKay, appeared at public events in Orange County several times in 1985, including the Irvine Ranch Roundup and the South Coast Repertory Theater in September and a UCI Foundation event in March.

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