‘Heir raid’ hosp big: Wasn’t my job to care (NY)

He seemed more concerned about her financial health than about her mental health.

The chief of Beth Israel Medical Center, where reclusive copper heiress Huguette Clark spent her last 20 years living in near-isolation, claims it wasn’t his place to inquire what she was doing there for nearly two decades as he sought more and more money from her for the facility.

Dr. Robert Newman, then-CEO of the Manhattan hospital, “testified that while he found it unusual that Huguette refused to leave Beth Israel since she was first admitted, and knew that she never left her hospital room, he did nothing to find out why,” argued lawyers for Clark’s relatives, who believe they were wrongly cut out of her $400 million fortune, in new court papers filed in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court.

“The record reveals a pattern at Beth Israel of soliciting gifts from Huguette almost immediately after she entered the hospital in 1991 while ignoring its undeniable duty to evaluate Huguette’s psychiatric condition, provide her with any psychiatric care and establish a plan for her discharge,” the lawyers wrote.

Clark, the daughter of a US senator and early 20th-century copper baron, passed away last year at the age of 104 after living in Beth Israel hospital rooms since 1991, despite being well enough to return to her lavish Fifth Avenue apartment or Connecticut estate.

The dowager would remain secluded in her hospital sanctuary with the shades drawn, watching cartoons, playing with her collection of dolls and challenging herself to games of solitaire.

Newman allegedly referred to her to colleagues as “the biggest bucks-contributing potential we’ve ever had.”

Clark’s family is contesting the doling out of Clark’s dough to the hospital, to her longtime private-duty nurse, Hadassah Peri — who is due $34 million plus Clark’s beloved doll collection — and others. Beth Israel had no comment on the suit, citing “active litigation.”


‘Heir raid’ hosp big: Wasn’t my job to care
Chuck Bennett
September 3, 2012
New York Post

Additional coverage:

Beth Israel Medical Center shook down heiress Huguette Clark for $13 million, relatives say
Kathianne Boniello/Isabel Vincent
September 2, 2012
New York Post

They operated on her wallet.

Beth Israel Medical Center milked reclusive copper heiress Huguette Clark for more than $13 million in fees, donations and even a priceless painting during her 20-year stay as a patient — and greedy executives angled for $125 million more, her relatives allege in shocking new court filings over Clark’s estate.

The alleged shakedown was illuminated in an e-mail in which hospital board member and former CEO Dr. Robert Newman referred to Clark as “the biggest bucks contributing potential we’ve ever had,” according to court papers.

He told a colleague her “potential has been overwhelming[ly] unrealized.”

At one point, he suggested to Clark that she pay nearly one-third of her estimated $400 million fortune to keep the now-shuttered Beth Israel North on the Upper East Side open so she could keep living in the room she had refused to leave for 15 years despite being in good physical health, the papers allege.

But instead of addressing Clark’s crippling anxiety, hospital honchos played on her fears, engaging in “a concentrated effort, orchestrated at the highest board and executive levels,” to get her money, court documents obtained by The Post allege.

Clark’s death last year at age 104 set off a battle over her estate. Her distant relatives claim lawyer Wallace Bock, accountant Irving Kamsler, private-duty nurse Hadassah Peri and the Beth Israel administrators manipulated the feeble Clark for her money.

The nurse, who received cash and gifts from Clark, stands to inherit nearly $34 million and Clark’s priceless doll collection in the now-disputed will. Beth Israel is to get $1 million.

The Paris-born Clark inherited her money from her father, William, a rail and mining baron and former US senator whose wealth rivaled the Rockefellers’.

She went to Beth Israel North in 1991, when she was 85, after a doctor found her emaciated and ill in one of her three sprawling Fifth Avenue apartments.

She spent the last two decades of her life in dismal hospital rooms with the shades drawn and door shut even though there was “no medical basis for keeping her” past the first few months, documents show.

Clark was “the perfect patient” for the hospital, her relatives charge, noting, “She required no medical care, possessed enormous wealth, paid over $800 a day for her room, and became progressively more dependent on the hospital.”

“Beth Israel had a plan to subtly, but ever so persistently, court Huguette for the purpose of garnering gifts and ultimately do a will in favor of the hospital,” court papers claim.

Newman, former CEO of Continuum Health Partners, Beth Israel’s parent organization, took the unusual step of offering to help Clark complete a will so “some faceless bureaucrat of the government” wouldn’t get his hands on her estate, court papers say.

And relatives say Bock, the attorney, frequently warned Clark that without a will the government would violate her privacy and sell off her possessions. Newman discussed the issue with Peri, the nurse, who was “much more anxious re: lack of will,” court papers say.

When financial trouble was forcing a potential sale of Beth Israel North in 2004, Newman and board Chairman Morton Hyman told Clark “a contribution in the neighborhood of $125 million would obviate the need to sell” the facility, an e-mail by Newman shows.

“That’s a lot of money,” Clark responded.

Newman was undeterred.

“She responded the same way when we asked for several million a few years ago, and that time she came through with the Manet. We’ll see,” he wrote in an e-mail to a hospital fund-raising executive.

He was referring to a painting by the Impressionist Edouard Manet, worth $6 million to $8 million, that Clark donated to the hospital in 2000. It sold “Pivoines Dans Une Bouteillein” in a private sale for a “substantial sum,” court papers say.

After the execs’ visit, Clark asked her lawyer if she could sell her Connecticut estate to “buy” the hospital, court papers say. She never gave the $125 million and didn’t sell the estate.

Among the gifts Clark did bestow on Beth Israel was $400,000 for a cardiac unit.

When Beth Israel North shut in 2004, Clark told caretakers she wanted to stay in a hospital on the Upper East Side. She changed her mind when Peri and Dr. Henry Singman, her private physician, threatened to stop seeing her if she didn’t move to Beth Israel’s downtown facility.

Daniel Cohen, a lawyer for Beth Israel, refused comment. A hospital spokesman also declined, citing the active litigation.

Additional reporting by Melissa Klein

A look inside hidden life of ailing recluse
Kathianne Boniello/Melissa Klein
September 2, 2012
New York Post

In a lavish apartment overlooking Central Park, she occupied only one room, lit by a single candle. She was elderly and emaciated, wore an old, soiled bathrobe, her face hidden behind a towel.

Meeting 85-year-old heiress Huguette Clark for the first time was like encountering “an apparition,” her private physician recalls in a detailed account of his “most strange” introduction to her in March 1991 in her 10-room, 5,000-square-foot apartment.

Notoriously reclusive, the daughter of industrialist and senator William Clark had been long forgotten by most of the world by the time a friend asked Dr. Henry Singman to check on her at 907 Fifth Ave., where she owned three apartments.

Except for a small, tight-knit circle, few knew of the existence of the copper-mining heiress.

Skin cancer had devastated her once-attractive face, leaving her “looking like an advanced leper patient,” Singman wrote in his medical notes.

Weighing a mere 75 pounds, Clark held the towel over her mouth, shielding others from the sight of her partially missing lower left lip.

Ulcers had corroded her right lower eyelid and cheek. She appeared to be “nearly at death’s door.”

The house call changed the course of Clark’s long life.

The physician got the wealthy shut-in to go to the hospital. Clark chose Beth Israel North, the former Doctor’s Hospital, on the Upper East Side for its proximity to Suzanne Pierre, the friend and former social secretary who had asked for Singman’s help.

Clark went through Beth Israel’s doors and never re-emerged. She died there last year at age 104.

After a few months at Beth Israel, Clark’s physical health improved. Within months, she gained weight. Surgeries helped her cancer and her appearance.

But Clark refused to leave, and she refused to say why.

The only hint came in an exchange with Singman over a French poem. The verses concerned a cricket and a butterfly. Clark read it to Singman in Spanish and French.

“The upshot of it was she wanted to remain a cricket rather than to be this beautiful butterfly that was flying around, because it was basically safer for her and she felt more secure,” Singman’s deposition says.

Her caregivers happily accepted the odd arrangement as Clark repeatedly lavished them with extravagant amounts of money and expensive gifts, including homes and cars.

Singman received monthly payments, which totaled $521,025 from 1997 to 2011. Clark, who was paying Singman’s malpractice-insurance premiums, left the doctor another $100,000 in her now-disputed will.

Singman taught the octogenarian solitaire “and she learned every game in the book, improvising and inventing new games. She has a ‘steel trap’ memory,” he wrote, “but remains shy and reticent.”

Additional reporting by Isabel Vincent


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