Barbara Jean Carnegie Berwald with then-husband Jack Kent Cooke. (Los Angeles Times )
Barbara Jean Carnegie Berwald, 94, the first wife of media and sports mogul Jack Kent Cooke whose record divorce settlement precipitated his sale of the Lakers, the Kings and the Forum to Jerry Buss, died of heart failure Friday at her home in Purchase, N.Y., her grandson John Kent Cooke Jr. said.
She was born in 1917 in Port Perry, Canada, and soon after moved with her family to St. Catharines, also in the province of Ontario. She married Cooke in 1934, when she was 17 and he was a 21-year-old encyclopedia salesman bent on success.
They moved to California in 1960 and became U.S. citizens. Her husband acquired broadcasting, publishing, sporting and real estate holdings that were worth between $80 million and $100 million when the assets were divided in 1979, two years after they were divorced. They had been married 42 years and had two children, Ralph Kent Cooke and John Kent Cooke.
To finance the settlement of approximately $41 million ordered by Judge Joseph Wapner, Cooke sold his L.A. sports teams and the Inglewood arena as well as a sprawling Northern California ranch to Buss, who still owns the Lakers. The settlement was then a U.S. record.
She retained the couple’s Bel-Air home, remained active in Los Angeles charities and later married Thomas Berwald.
Cooke, who married three more times, died in 1997.
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