A jury on Thursday rejected a claim by billionaire real estate mogul Donald Bren‘s two adult children for $134 million in retroactive child support.
The unusual case was a high-stakes contest between one of the nation’s richest men and the children he fathered during a 13-year affair with Jennifer McKay Gold, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of her children when they were minors.
Christie Bren, 22, and her brother, David Bren, 18, pursued the case when they became adults.
Jurors deliberated two hours before siding with the 78-year-old Irvine Co. chairman, whose attorney argued that no family court would have given the children more than the millions he already paid.
The suit sought $400,000 a month for each of the children in retroactive support from 1988 to 2002. Their mother testified she received a total of about $3 million for them during that period.
“My children are going to stand up for what they believe in,” she said. “We will definitely appeal.”
Lawyer Hillel Chodos, who represents the children, said he would specify in his appeal brief what was kept from the jury.
Donald Bren, who has a penchant for privacy, stepped into the court’s public spotlight to testify that he never loved Gold and never planned to be a parent to the two children. He said he provided enough for them to live a privileged life and agreed to pay for their education.
“I felt an education at the university level, at the graduate level is perhaps the best gift a parent can give a child,” he testified.
His lawyers have claimed he paid $10 million in support over the years, including the educations.
“They are not here because they didn’t have enough to live on,” he told the jury in closing arguments. “They are here because they were deprived by Donald Bren of their birthright. … They had the right to share in his standard of living.”
That standard, Chodos said, included two California homes, a Sun Valley ranch, New York apartment, private planes and yacht. Attorney John Quinn, who represented Donald Bren, said the estimate of the real estate mogul’s liquid assets was exaggerated.