In My Opinion

Fred Grimm: $36 million later, the son also whines

So much for plans to up my kid’s allowance by $36 million. Palm Beach philanthropist Lois Pope tried it with her boy Paul. As she testified Monday in Palm Beach circuit court, that turned out to be a mighty poor parenting strategy.

Lois, 79, said she has been humiliated, horrified, extorted and threatened by her over-indulged son as he attempted to bully her out of even more money. “He wants everything,” she said. “He wants everything I have. I am so afraid.”

Lois Pope came to court asking for an injunction against her disgruntled son “for protection against domestic violence,” though her case relied on a rather abstract non-violent notion of domestic violence. That may be a legal reach. Even for a petitioner worth $200 million or so.

Case Number 502013DR003400 was only the latest skirmish in a mother-vs-son feud that might have been scripted by the National Enquirer, which would be appropriate, given that the Lantana-based Enquirer publishing empire just happened to be the source of the Pope family’s disputed millions.

Paul David Pope, 45, inherited $20 million when Enquirer founder Generoso Pope died in 1988 (Three other children were similarly endowed). It wasn’t enough. Lois testified Monday that when Paul burned through that cache, she gave him $12 million in 2008. Last year, she said that she wrote him a check for another $4 million. “He wanted $20 million,” she said.

And now, she said, he wants more. And she’s afraid.

Lois certainly looked the part of a Palm Beach society widow, her slim frame accentuated by a black pantsuit, trimmed in gold piping to match her earrings and the buttons down her navy blue shirt. Her hair, blonde with platinum highlights, was worn up. She fairly exuded wealth and elegance.

Paul, not so much. Apparently, his dissipated fortune was not frittered away on personal trainers. He has not been a model son. His mother managed to work into her testimony that he has not been much for work (though he has penned an unpublished memoir, Confessions of a Rich Kid from Hell) that he has sired three children by women who were not his wives and that he has twice been accused of whacking his girlfriends around.

And it is incontrovertible that the son has not been kind to his old mother. In March, he compiled a steaming trove of scurrilous accusations, claiming all kinds of financial and sexual impropriety. He sent out his scandal dossier to a number of media outlets. A few bit.

He told reporters that his mother had frittered away millions (his millions) in the guise of philanthropy, trying to buy respect (as if this were an unusual motivation in those parts). His mother, he told the New York Post, “pays dearly to be painted as a philanthropist extraordinaire…. She is actually a moldy old fraud” (She testified Monday that she has given away $34 million to charities since her husband’s death).

Then he told reporters that Lois Pope had taken out kidnap insurance for him and his children. Paul Pope’s theory was that she was plotting to have him snatched and held for ransom. It was tortured logic, but it made the gossip columns. “It was like a headline in the old Enquirer,” Lois testified Monday (She said she added Paul and his three kids to her handicapped daughter’s kidnap policy only after discussing it with him).

Paul kept circling back to his theory that Lois had somehow subverted his father’s true intentions and kept him from becoming the rightful kingpin of the Enquirer empire.

Lois Pope, in her petition, begged County Judge Reginald Corlew, to intervene. “Paul Pope’s erratic behavior will continue to escalate because Lois Pope is further refusing to support her son’s excessive lifestyle. She has a genuine fear that he will continue to become more desperate and exhibit erratic and violent behavior toward her.”

But an injunction might be a stretch for Judge Corlew. Most domestic violence cases are not of the speculative type. And on cross-examination, Lois admitted to the occasional recent interactions with her troublesome son with no evidence of her looming fear. Judge Corlew continued the case for another 30 days.

The goings-on in Judge Corlew’s courtroom Monday did nothing to disprove the notion that heaps of money and cadres of lawyers can sustain petty disputes for months, or years.

Before taking up the Pope squabble, the judge considered the Sea Walk condo association’s demand for an injunction against Michael Bell, or at least Michael Bell’s dog. Bell, citing his bouts of depression, claimed it was a therapy dog. But the condo association complained that the therapy dog keeps biting Bell’s neighbors. It was the second hearing in which a passel of lawyers gathered to argue about a dog. A third hearing was scheduled.

Then came the mother seeking an injunction against her lout of a son.

The Palm Beach County courthouse is where pique, bad dogs and disgruntled sons are transformed into many billable hours.

Read more Fred Grimm stories from the Miami Herald

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