Billionaire cosmetics heir William Lauder is trying to kick his baby mama out of the $US7 million ($A9 million) Bel Air mansion he gave her – a simmering battle that reignited with an innocent social media post made by their love child.
The sprawling 550sq m property set on a lush, winding road overlooking Los Angeles is at the centre of a legal war playing out in LA Superior Court between New York socialite Taylor Stein, 54, and Lauder, 60, the chairman of Estee Lauder.
Both Stein and Lauder are members of storied New York families. Lauder is the son of billionaire philanthropist Leonard Lauder, who donated more than $US1 billion ($1.3 billion) worth of art to the Metropolitan Museum. His grandmother was Estee Lauder who established the makeup company in 1946.
Stein is the daughter of the late legendary NYC nightclub impresario Howard Stein, who opened 1980s hotspots Xenon and Au Bar. Her grandfather, Ruby Stein, was a loan shark murdered by the Westies gang. His headless body was found floating in Jamaica Bay in May 1977.
The couple met at a party at Lauder’s Aspen mansion in 2000, when Lauder was still married to his wife Karen, the mother of his two other daughters. Their illicit affair began a year later, and by 2005, Stein was pregnant. According to reports, Lauder asked her to end the pregnancy because he was negotiating an agreement with his wife, who he eventually divorced in 2009.
Stein became pregnant again in 2006, and had the baby in May 2007. The secretive Lauder, who was then CEO of his family’s multinational company and did not want his personal life to end up in “the gossip press,” as one of his lawyers said at the time, arranged for the mother and newborn daughter to be taken to Aspen to escape media attention.
Under a 2007 agreement, Stein was to receive $US1 million ($A1.3 million) every year if she did not publicly disclose the identity of her child’s father and she agreed not to come within 100 yards (90m) of any member of the Lauder family in Palm Beach, Aspen and New York, according to a report.
Stein and Lauder have had an explosively fraught relationship for years. A shouting match between them on an LA street in November 2012 resulted in Stein’s arrest after she allegedly punched him in the face. Stein was sentenced to 19 days of community service for the incident.
Now, he recently renewed battle over the mansion apparently began late last year after the couple’s 13-year-old daughter – whose name The Post is withholding – allegedly described her parents as being “divorced” on social media. Lauder argued that the public post violated his demands for strict secrecy, a source told The Post.
Those demands regarding his love child and former mistress have resulted in dozens of heavily redacted court filings and several attempts to seal the current case.
Stein is now accusing the billionaire of backing out of a court-brokered arrangement to support them, according to court papers. She has also accused Lauder of allegedly engaging in a campaign of harassment that included hiring high-profile private detective Jack Palladino to spy on her, the source told The Post.
Stein first alleged in a 2018 complaint that Lauder was refusing to fund a “residence support trust” worth a reported $US1 million ($A1.3 million) a year, and was trying to oust her and their daughter, as well as her 10-year-old adopted son, from the six-bedroom, five-bathroom home that also includes a pool, court papers say.
But by late last year, before the social media post blew things up, the warring parties seemed to have reached a truce with the help of a mediator. In November 2020, Stein’s lawyer drafted an email to the judge in the case saying it had been settled. He sent it to Lauder’s lawyer Thomas Nolan for review.
“Looks good,” Mr Nolan responded, according to a copy of the email filed in court.
By January, Mr Nolan was arguing in legal papers that they had “merely reached a settlement in principle, not a formal settlement.” This is when Stein discovered the long-threatened eviction from her home could be imminent.
“How is it that suddenly, almost two-and-a-half months after the fact, ‘Looks good’ has been transformed by Lauder into, in essence, ‘Looks terribly wrong?’” Stein’s lawyers argued.
Calls and emails to lawyers for both Stein and Lauder were not returned.
This story was originally published on the New York Post and is reproduced here with permission