Video: Who will inherit heiress’s $500M estate?

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    >>> one of the richest and exclusive heiresses has died. she passed away on tuesday. prosecutors were looking into how her vast fortune was being handled. nbc's jeff rossen has the latest. hey, jeff. good morning.

    >> reporter: hi, ann. good morning to you. just to give you an idea how much money we're talking, she owns the largest apartment on all of manlt's fifth avenue. inside this building behind me, 42 rooms worth about $100 million. that's just the beginning of it. she herself is worth about half a billion dollars by some estimates. when she died this week, big questions started. what will happen to all of her money, especially considering her closest advisers are under investigation for stealing millions from her. she pass added away this weekend at a new york city hospital living under an alias. reclusive until her final breath. she leaves behind three massive estates. this one in santa barbara hugs the california coast. its value, over $100 million. clark 's estate in connecticut is worth over $20 million. and, of course, the prestigious fifth avenue property filled with dolls and fine art worth over $100 million. clark hadn't seen any of them in 20 years. instead she was living in seclusion in what would be her final home, the medical center surrounded by her french doll collection. clark 's lifestyle is so mysterious, this is the last known picture ever taken of her in 1930 . her death two weeks shy of her 105th birthday means the battle begins for her riches.

    >> she was buried wednesday evening the way she had lived, alone, no ceremony, no funeral mass , no priest. it was a strange life that came to a strange ending.

    >> reporter: new york prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into her inner circle . her lawyer wally and her accountant irving.

    >> the gfters want to know if she was taken advantage of all those years. they have a roomful of documents to go through.

    >> reporter: wally quietly arranged his sell, a stradivarius violin for $6 million and a rpainting.

    >> as we say, follow the money. it goes some place. the court may freeze the money, put it someplace, lock it up, and have someone other than these two people in control of it until they can sort out the facts.

    >> reporter: clark who divorced young and had no children inherited her wealth from her wealthy father, a copper king . she reportedly has a will, too, but it remains unclear who's in it. the mystery stretches beyond the grave. we reeved out to both her attorney and the accountant. the accountant never called us back yesterday, but we did hear back from a spokesman for the attorney wally . he told us, cloak, madame clark 's passing is a sad event for everyone who love and respected her over the years. she died as she wanted with dignity and prove sichl we intend to continue to respect her wishes for privacy. it's important to note, ann, they would not comment on the ongoing criminal investigation against them, and we should mention this apartment is so big behind me if it does end up going on the market depending on what's in her will, it would make a huge splash here in the always business new york real estate market .

    >> jeff rossen , thanks.

Image: Huguette Clark
Copper King Mansion Bed And Breakfast, Butte, Mont.
Huguette Clark, heiress to a copper fortune, has been secluded for decades. This photo of her as a teenager was made in Montana in the 1920s.
Investigative reporter Bill Dedman of msnbc.com
By Bill Dedman Investigative reporter
NBC News
updated 5/24/2011 4:46:26 PM ET 2011-05-24T20:46:26

Huguette M. Clark, the mysterious copper heiress who became the subject of public fascination and police investigation after a century of life as a recluse, died Tuesday morning at age 104, registered under a fake name at a hospital in New York City. Her empty mansions, and a criminal investigation into the handling of her fortune, were the subject of a series of reports last year on msnbc.com.

The criminal investigation continues into the handling of her money by her attorney and accountant, with detectives and a forensic accountant poring over the many years of Clark's financial records. An assistant district attorney was able to visit with Clark in the hospital, more than once, and to have a conversation with her, in both French and English. A state grand jury in Manhattan issued subpoenas for documents. It could be months before the investigation's conclusion is known.

Though she inherited one of the great mining fortunes of the 19th century, she lived quietly into the 21st century, secluded in a spartan hospital room for more than two decades despite being in relatively good physical health. Intensely shy, in the last year of her life she became a subject of public fascination, a trending topic of searches on Google and Yahoo, pictured on the cover of the New York tabloids, with fan pages on Facebook, a biography on Wikipedia, and her story read by tens of millions — though the last known photograph of her was made in 1930.

After msnbc.com reported her death Tuesday morning, based on sources at the hospital, her attorney issued a brief statement of confirmation: "Madame Clark's passing is a sad event for everyone who loved and respected her over the years," said Michael McKeon, spokesman for attorney Wallace "Wally" Bock. "She died as she wanted, with dignity and privacy. We intend to continue to respect her wishes for privacy." The cause of death was not disclosed.

She was just two weeks short of her 105th birthday, on June 9. In recent years her eyesight had failed and her hearing was weak, and at times she had been unwilling to eat. She was moved in mid-April from her private room at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York up to its medical intensive care unit, then in mid-May to a room with hospice care.

She had been living at the hospital under pseudonyms — the latest was Harriet Chase — in a guarded room with full-time private nurses. Her hospital room number didn't even exist — outside her room on the 3rd floor, a card with the fake room number "1B" and the name "Chase" was taped over the actual room number. When she was moved to intensive care, room 1B was cleared of her belongings, and the card was removed.

Huguette Clark has been almost entirely alone, aside from her private nurse and occasional visits by her accountant. One of her former attorneys represented her for 20 years without meeting her face to face, instead talking through a closed door.

She outlived her closest friend and social secretary, Suzanne Pierre, who was also French and the widow of Huguette's doctor. Madame Pierre died this spring after suffering from Alzheimer's disease in recent years. A decade ago, Clark gave her a gift of $10 million by selling a painting.

Born to high society and scandal
Huguette (pronounced "u-GET") Marcelle Clark was born in Paris on June 9, 1906, the youngest child of U.S. Sen. William Andrews Clark of Montana (1839-1925), known as one of the copper kings. When she was a child, her father was described by The New York Times as either the richest or second-richest American, neck and neck with John D. Rockefeller. W.A. Clark made a fortune in copper mining in Montana and Arizona, and owned banks, railroads, newspapers, sugar, tea, timber, real estate and many other investments. He served one full term in the Senate as a Democrat from Montana, from 1901 to 1907, despite having to give up the seat earlier in 1900 in a scandal involving bribes paid to legislators to send him to the Senate. (The explanation attributed to him: "I never bought a man who wasn't for sale.") The 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which removed the election of senators from the hands of legislators and gave it to the people, is a backhanded tribute to his legacy.

While serving in the Senate in 1904, the 65-year-old widower shocked the political and financial world by announcing that he had secretly remarried three years earlier, and that he and his 26-year-old wife already had a 2-year-old daughter, Andrée. A second daughter, Huguette, was born in 1906. When Huguette was about 4, the family of four moved into a 121-room house at Fifth Avenue and 77th Street in New York City, stuffed with the senator's collection of French paintings.

The senator died in 1925 and soon was largely forgotten, except to the occasional question on Jeopardy! and to historians in Montana, Arizona and Nevada, where his railroad spawned the city of Las Vegas and where Clark County is named for him.

Huguette Clark in 1930
Associated Press
This is the last known photo of Huguette Clark, taken 80 years ago. She has hidden away in a New York hospital room for at least the past 22 years. This photo was made on Aug. 11, 1930, the day of her divorce, in Reno, Nev. Her marriage lasted two years. She has no children.

Huguette Clark grew up in high society in New York City and was educated at Miss Spence's School for Girls. When her father died, she received an allowance of $7,500 a month (about $1.2 million a year in today's dollars), and when she reached 21 she inherited one-fifth of her father's estate, an even split with his children from his first marriage. The entire estate was estimated at up to $300 million, or about $3.6 billion today.

She was married in 1928, at 22, to William Gower, a law student and Clark family employee. The couple soon separated, had no children, and divorced in less than two years, in the summer of 1930. Thereafter she lived with her mother, Anna, in the apartments at 907 Fifth Ave. (at 72nd Street), occasionally receiving family visitors and a few friends, until Anna died in 1963.

Empty mansions and financial questions
In February 2010, at age 103, Huguette Clark was the subject of a feature story on msnbc.com, a photo narrative of her life and family history. She caught the imagination of the public because her three opulent homes remained unoccupied: an estate alongside the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara, Calif., worth an estimated $100 million, which she had not visited since the 1950s; a country house in New Canaan, Conn., on the market for $23 million, which she expanded but never spent a night in; and the largest apartment on New York City's Fifth Avenue, actually 42 rooms on the 8th and 12th floors, valued at about $100 million.

Full coverage: 'The Clarks, an American story of wealth, mystery and scandal'

The homes have been carefully maintained through all these years. The oceanfront estate in Santa Barbara remains furnished, with paintings on the walls, gardens tended, furniture carefully covered, the great house ready to be opened if she should send word of an impending visit. The country house in Connecticut has had extensive repairs, watched by a full-time caretaker who said he wasn't sure whether Clark was dead or alive. And the apartments in New York, with her collections of dolls and dollhouses as well as fine paintings and furniture, are visited regularly by housekeepers and her attorney.

Image: Irving Kamsler
Claudio Papapietro
Irving Kamsler, Huguette Clark's longtime accountant, pleaded guilty in October 2008 to attempting to disseminate indecent material to minors. The court sentenced him to five years of probation, but he was allowed to keep his license as a certified public accountant. In a letter he told his client only the barest details of the case.

Then a feature story became an investigation. Msnbc.com reported in August that her wealth was managed by her attorney, Wally Bock, 79, of Queens, N.Y., and her certified public accountant, a felon named Irving H. Kamsler, 64, of the Bronx, N.Y. Kamsler pleaded guilty in 2008 to attempting to distribute indecent material to 13- and 15-year-old girls in an AOL chat room, where he went by the handle "IRV1040." He remains a registered sex offender in New York.

Msnbc.com also reported that the attorney and accountant became the owners of the New York City apartment of another elderly client, a lawyer at Bock's firm who had been Clark's attorney. The apartment was bequeathed to them after the man's last will and testament was revised six times during his last years, a period when his family and neighbors said he suffered from dementia.

The Manhattan district attorney began investigating the handling of Clark's finances. The DA's Elder Abuse Unit and New York City police detectives have looked at allegations relating to transactions in her bank accounts, as well as the confidential sale of her Stradivarius violin for $6 million, the sale of a Renoir painting for $23.5 million, the gift of $10 million to the friend and social secretary, and the gift to her longtime nurse of cash to buy four homes now worth about $1.7 million.

The criminal investigation is being handled by the same prosecutor as the Brooke Astor case, in which the son and attorney of the New York heiress were convicted in 2009 of stealing from her. Huguette Clark's fortune is said to be about four times that of Astor's.

Christopher Sadowski
Attorney Wallace "Wally" Bock says he has always done exactly what his client, heiress Huguette Clark, has asked. He acknowledged soliciting from her a gift of $1.5 million for the community where his daughter and grandchildren live.

The attorney and accountant had not been accused of a crime in the handling of the Clark finances, and both men said through written statements last year that they had handled Clark's affairs in accordance with her wishes.

A family fight to protect her
In September, three Clark family members went to court in New York , asking that a guardian be appointed to protect her. The relatives (her half-nieces and half-nephews, descendants of Clark's father from his first marriage) said they had been blocked from visiting Clark through the years and, citing news articles, they alleged that the attorney and accountant had exerted undue influence on her. (Read the document: the family's petition.)

The attorney, Bock, confirmed in court documents that after the terrorism attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he had solicited a donation from Clark of more than $1.5 million, which she gave to a West Bank community where his daughter is a settler. Bock said that she gave the donation freely of her own accord. New York ethics rules prohibit lawyers from soliciting gifts from clients "for the benefit of the lawyer or a person related to the lawyer."

Bock also revealed that she signed a will more than five years earlier, and that Bock and Kamsler have a power of attorney to handle all her financial affairs.

Bock told the court he has safeguarded Clark's health, safety, welfare and privacy. He said she chose to live in the hospital, even when she was well. He denied controlling her affairs and access to her, saying he has merely carried out her wishes. "Ms. Clark has explicitly instructed me on many occasions that she does not want visitors and does not want anyone — including her relatives — to know where she resides," Bock wrote. (Read the document: Bock's sworn statement to the court.)

Telling the client less than the full story
The court documents also included a 2009 letter in which Kamsler told Clark obliquely of his guilty plea. He characterized his arrest in his letter to his client this way: "I recently visited with you and explained my legal situation concerning my pleading guilty to a single felony charge involving the use of my computer to attempt to communicate with minors, who in fact were not minors but were undercover agents." His letter was signed by "H.M. Clark" to indicate her willingness that he continue as one of her executors and trustees. Bock and Kamsler have both declined to say whether they are also named as beneficiaries. (Read the document: Kamsler's letter signed by Huguette Clark.)

Kamsler's letter didn't mention that he was indicted on five charges, or that he was charged with trying to disseminate indecent material to people who he thought were 13-year-old and 15-year-old girls, or that he tried to get the girls to engage in sexual acts and suggested they meet him in a "deserted road or park."  (Read the document: Kamsler's criminal court file and investigator's report.)

A state judge rejected the family petition , without a hearing, saying their claim was "insufficient in its hearsay, conclusory and speculative assertions" on the capacity of Clark to handle her affairs. The case presented something of a Catch-22: The judge said the relatives were not able to provide first-hand information about Clark to prove their allegations against the attorney and accountant, but the relatives said they had been prevented for many years by the attorney and accountant from visiting Clark. (Read the document: the judge's rulling.)

Any will filed by Bock could be contested, which would lead to a court battle over her fortune. If a court invalidated the will, Clark's estate would flow to her nearest relatives, presumably the dozen or so direct descendants from her father's first marriage.

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John Makely  /  msnbc.com
Flowers on Tuesday at the door to the Clark mausoleum, where Huguette Clark will be interred.

Burial

No information was available about any funeral Mass for Clark, who was raised a Roman Catholic, like her mother.

The family has made preparations in recent years for Clark to be entombed in the grand Clark family mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, N.Y. Construction at the mausoleum was taking place in March to make room for Huguette, who had not made arrangements before, though the mausoleum was built before she was born. Also resting there are her sister, who died of meningitis at 16; their father the senator; his first and second wives, and other children and relatives from his first marriage.

On Monday, the day before she died, schoolchildren in Montana began a campaign writing letters to Huguette Clark, asking her to send money back to the state to revive Columbia Gardens, an amusement park and fairgrounds her father built for the miners of Butte. With her sister, she visited the gardens when they were children.

———

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Photos: The Clarks: An American story of wealth, scandal, mystery

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  1. By Bill Dedman, NBC News. Why are the mansions of one of America’s wealthiest women sitting vacant? Huguette Clark's father, the copper king and "Paris millionaire senator," was the second richest American — or first, neck and neck with Rockefeller. Huguette, 103, has no children. Where is she? And what will become of her fortune?

    Click on the photo to continue. (W.A. Clark Memorial Library) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. She doesn't live here. The mysterious Clark estate in Santa Barbara, Calif., has been empty since 1963. Named Bellosguardo for its "beautiful view" of the Pacific, it's worth more than $100 million, a 21,666-square-foot house on 23 acres. Caretakers have labored at the Clark estate for generations — and not met Huguette Clark.

    Click on the photo to continue. (John L. Wiley, http://flickr.com/photos/jw4pix/) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. She also doesn't live here. In 1951, Huguette Clark bought this home in New Canaan, Conn. She named it Le Beau Château, or "beautiful country house." And she never spent a night in it. Now her 13,459-square-foot home, with 52 wooded acres, is for sale for $24 million, marked down from $34 million. Taxes are $161,000 a year.

    Click on the photo to continue. (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. And she doesn't seem to live here, though her belongings are here. The largest spread on New York's Fifth Avenue is her three apartments at 72nd Street overlooking Central Park. She has 42 rooms and 15,000 square feet. That's all the 8th floor and half the 12th, worth more than $50 million. The building staff have seen Huguette ("u-GET") few times in 30 years.

    Click on the photo to continue. (Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Where did such wealth come from? It started with hard work, ingenuity and unfettered ambition. One of these miners in 1863 in Bannack, Mont., would, by the end of the century, own banks, railroads, timber, newspapers, sugar, coffee, oil, gold, silver, copper — seemingly unending veins of copper. He's on the right, William Andrews Clark, Huguette's father.

    Click on the photo to continue. (Newell family photo) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Born in a log cabin in Pennsylvania in 1839, of Scotch-Irish and French Huguenot immigrants, Clark stood 5 feet 8½, with fastidiously tended whiskers, unruly red hair, and cold blue eyes. A contemporary wrote, "There is craft in his stereotyped smile and icicles in his handshake. He is about as magnetic as last year's bird's nest."

    Click on the photo to continue. ("The Clarks: An American Phenomenon," 1941) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. After two years panning for gold, Clark turned to selling goods he hauled by wagon through the Rockies. He bought eggs at 20 cents a dozen, marketing them for $3 a dozen to miners for a brandy eggnog called Tom and Jerry. He took a year back East to study geology at Columbia University, then returned to Montana, to Butte's "Richest Hill on Earth."

    (Lewis Pub. Co. / New-York Historical Society) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Clark made his greatest fortune in the Southwest. His United Verde copper mine, in Jerome, Ariz., yielded a profit of $400,000 a month, or in today's dollars, $10 million a month. The trading post of Las Vegas was a stop on his rail line. Here he speaks to a crowd in Las Vegas from his Pullman car in 1905. Las Vegas today is in Clark County, named for him.

    (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Libraries, Special Collections) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Clark's desire was a title: Senator Clark. Montana denied him time after time, a battle called the War of the Copper Kings. Who knows how a feud flared between Democrats: Marcus Daly, left, a Catholic who loved racehorses, and Clark, a Presbyterian who loved art. Legislators picked senators; newspapers made legislators; all were for sale.

    (Montana Historical Society Research Center) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. An aide said, "We'll put the old man in the Senate, or the poorhouse." Clark was elected in 1899, but $1,000 bills turned up in envelopes. He had to resign. Clark said publicly, "I propose to leave to my children a legacy, worth more than gold, that of an unblemished name." Privately he said, "I never bought a man who wasn't for sale."

    (Montana Historical Society Research Center) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Clark's men tried one more audacity: On the day he resigned, they tricked the governor into traveling outside Montana. His lieutenant filled the vacancy — with Clark! When the governor returned, again Clark was out. Finally, he was elected in 1901. Though he retired after one term, for the rest of his life he insisted on being "Senator Clark."

    (Clinedinst / The National Magazine, 1905) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Mark Twain had a few other names for Senator Clark. "He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a chain and ball on his legs."

    (Library of Congress) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Clark's first wife, Kate, died in 1893, leaving him four grown children. In 1904, while in the Senate, Clark announced that he had taken a second wife in France three years earlier, and that the couple already had a 2-year-old daughter. At the time of the supposed marriage, he was 62, and wife Anna was 23. No proof of the wedding date has been found.

    (The Butte Miner) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. His new wife, Anna Eugenia La Chapelle, had been Clark's ward. She came to him as a teenager for support. Clark sent her from Butte to boarding school, then to Paris, where she studied the harp. He visited by steamship. They had two daughters: Andrée, born in 1902 in Spain, and Huguette in 1906 in Paris, where they lived with Anna.

    (The Butte Miner) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. "THEY'RE MARRIED AND HAVE A BABY," thundered Daly's opposition paper. All this was news to Clark's children from his first marriage, who were older than his young wife. One older daughter wrote that, while she was "greatly grieved and dreadfully disappointed, we must all stand by our dear father."

    (The Anaconda Standard) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. After he left the Senate, Clark moved his young wife and daughters into this Beaux-Arts house he built at Fifth Avenue and 77th Street in New York. It had 121 rooms, four art galleries, Turkish baths, a vaulted rotunda 36 feet high, and its own railroad line to bring in coal. All for a family of four. It was known as "Clark's Folly."

    (George P. Hall & Son / New-York Historical Society) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Clark spent as much as $7 million on the house, about three times what it would later cost to build Yankee Stadium. The mansion's treasures included this Louis XVI salon, a marble statue of Eve by Rodin, oak ceilings from Sherwood Forest, and the grandest American collection of European paintings, lace and tapestries.

    (Salon Doré, 1770, on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Clark hosted organ recitals, so his neighbors on Millionaire's Row could see his paintings by Degas, Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian, van Dyck, Gainsborough, Cazin, Rousseau. Once his chosen artworks were installed in the house, Clark bought few more. If he acquired any more paintings, he wrote, he would have to remove something.

    (Edgar Degas, "The Dance Class," 1873, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Writer Wallace Irwin set it all to verse: "Senator Copper of Tonopah Ditch made a clean billion in minin' and sich. Hiked for New York, where his money he blew, bildin' a palace on Fift' Avenoo. 'How,' says the Senator, 'kin I look proudest? Build me a house that'll holler the loudest. None of your slab-sided, plain mossyleums! Gimme the treasures of art ...

    (George P. Hall & Son / New-York Historical Society) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. ... an' museums! Build it new-fangled, scalloped and angled, fine like a weddin' cake garnished with pills. Gents, do your duty, trot out your beauty. Gimme my money's worth, I'll pay the bills.' Pillars Ionic, eaves Babylonic, doors cut in scallops resemblin' a shell. Roof was Egyptian, gables caniptian. Whole grand effect when completed was — hell."

    (One of four galleries in the Clark mansion, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Clark's wife was rarely seen in public. He wrote of Anna, "Mrs. Clark did not care for social distinction, nor the obligations that would entail upon my public life." In 1912, former Senator Clark, 73, and Anna, 34, walked in the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue with Andrée, 9. Huguette, not pictured, was just 5, starting her collection of dolls from France.

    (The New York Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The Clark family traveled often to Paris. A ship's registry from 1914 sets birthdates for the family: William Andrews Clark, age 75, Connellsville, Pa., Jan. 8, 1839; Anna E., age 36, Calumet, Mich., March 10, 1878; Andrée, age 12, Spain, Aug. 13, 1902; and Huguette, age 8, Paris, June 9, 1906. At home, they had 10 servants and a French chef.

    (Ship's registry from the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Clark and daughters visit Columbia Gardens, which he built in Butte. It was about 1917. Andrée (left) would be about 15, and Huguette 11. Clark was 78. In 1919, a week before her 17th birthday, Andrée died of meningitis. "When her sister died, it left a hole in her life," said Huguette's great-half-nephew through the first marriage, Ian Devine.

    (Montana Historical Society Research Center) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Through the '20s, society pages chronicled the debutante. "Miss Huguette Clark, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Andrews Clark of 962 Fifth Avenue, entertained a party of girl friends yesterday at Sherry's." At Miss Spence's School for Girls, she learned politics; Isadora Duncan taught interpretive dance. Skirts had to be 3 inches below the knee.

    (The New York Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. William Andrews Clark died in his house on Fifth Avenue on March 2, 1925, at age 86, with his wife and children by his side. He lay in honor in his own gallery, as his paintings looked down. President Coolidge sent flowers. Clark's will called for a "decent and Christian burial in accordance with my condition in life, without undue pomp or ceremony."

    (The New York Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. He was entombed, along with his first wife and Andrée, in this mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. His neighbors now are Woolworth, Macy, Pulitzer — all better remembered. Clark left $350,000 to a Clark orphans home; $100,000 each to Clark kindergarten and Clarkdale, Ariz.; $25,000 to Clark women's home; $2,500 to his butler.

    (Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Clark had promised his daughters from his first marriage that Anna would not inherit the New York City mansion. It was sold in 1927 for less than half what it cost to build, and was torn down for apartments. Many other houses on Millionaire's Row fell, including the Astor and Vanderbilt palaces. The Gilded Age had passed.

    (George P. Hall & Son / New-York Historical Society) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Anna got the mansion in Santa Barbara and $2.5 million. The rest of Clark's estate — as much as $300 million, or $3.6 billion today — went to Huguette and the four older children, who soon cashed out all his businesses. Huguette, 18, also received an allowance for three years: up to $90,000 a year, equal to $1 million today.

    (Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. To the art, Clark attached conditions. The Metropolitan Museum could have it, if it kept it all in a separate Clark gallery forever. The Met declined. The art went to his second choice, the Corcoran in D.C. His wife and daughters paid for a Clark wing to hold it. The museum found that some of the paintings were misattributed; this Corot was authentic.

    (Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, "Repose," 1860, reworked 1865-1870, Corcoran Gallery of Art) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Clark bequeathed this advice as well: "The most essential elements of success in life are a purpose, increasing industry, temperate habits, scrupulous regard for one's word ... courteous manners, a generous regard for the rights of others, and, above all, integrity which admits of no qualification or variation."

    (Woodlawn Cemetery, Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Clark's descendants say he should be remembered as a Horatio Alger hero, a boy from a log cabin who conquered the worlds of finance, politics and art. "He lived exactly as he had planned," said André Baeyens, a great-grandson and diplomat, who wrote a book in French about the family. "He had a ferocious will to 'better my condition in life.'"

    (William Merritt Chase, 1915, Corcoran Gallery) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Bettering the condition of others wasn't his concern. Clark cut timber on federal land, and he benefitted from Arizona's "deportations" of union men who were kidnapped and driven out of state. Criticized for the sulfurous smoke and denuded landscape from his mines, he said, "Those who succeed us can well take care of themselves."

    (B.L. Singley, Butte, 1904 / Library of Congress) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. "Robber barons," some historians call the tycoons of that era. Others prefer "industrial statesmen." Unlike Carnegie or Rockefeller, Clark left little charity, only corruption and extravagance. "Life was good to William A. Clark," wrote historian Michael Malone, "but due to his own excesses, history has been unkind."

    (Harris & Ewing / Library of Congress) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. After her father's death, Huguette Clark practiced music and art; seven paintings she created were shown at the Corcoran. In 1928, she became engaged to William Gower, a law student whose father had worked for Clark. "No married couple ever started married life under more brilliant auspices," The New York Herald said.

    (The New York Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. They were wed at Bellosguardo, the Clark home in Santa Barbara, on Aug. 18, 1928. The groom was 23, the bride 22. That year, Huguette donated $50,000 to the city to restore a salt pond behind the estate (top), called the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge. The couple moved into the elegant apartment on Fifth Avenue, with her mother in the same building.

    (Pictometry International) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. It lasted two years. To establish Nevada residency for a divorce in 1930, she moved to Reno for the summer with her mother and six servants. With the papers signed, mother and daughter took a cruise to Hawaii, then returned to the apartment in New York.

    (The Los Angeles Times) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. This is the last known photograph of Huguette, cornered by a photographer on the day of her divorce in August 1930. In 1931, an Irish nobleman denied reports that he would marry Huguette, then 24. She dropped her seat at the opera, and slipped from the society pages.

    (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. After her mother died in 1963, Huguette stopped visiting Bellosguardo. Vintage cars remained in the garage. Paintings stayed on the walls, depicting her sister, Andrée, living well past her death at age 16, on into middle age. A caretaker's stepdaughter, Joan Pollard, recalls, "It was immaculate, as if someone had just left for the weekend."

    (John L. Wiley, http://flickr.com/photos/jw4pix/) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. In 1964, Huguette gave 215 acres near Santa Barbara for Boy Scout camps. "These camps serve 4,000 kids a year," said Ron Walsh, a Scout executive. "She did a lot of people a lot of good through the years." In 2003, she sold this Renoir for $23.5 million. In 2007, the IRS placed a lien on her houses for $1 million in back taxes; it was paid quickly.

    ("In the Roses," Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1882) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Huguette is trying to sell Le Beau Château, in wealthy New Canaan, Conn., an hour from New York City. She bought it in 1951, and added the wing at top right. It has 22 rooms, nine bedrooms, nine baths, 11 fireplaces, a wine cellar, trunk room, elevator, and walk-in vault. It has sat empty for 57 years, so the kitchens need updating.

    (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. The only residents on 52 acres are the caretaker and his son, in twin cottages, and wild turkeys and deer. The property is silent except for a waterfall. Her attorney put it on the market in 2005 at $34 million, now $24 million. Neighbors in this corner of town include Harry Connick Jr., Paul Simon, Glenn Beck and Brian Williams.

    (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Why would someone buy such a retreat, and never use it, but hold on to it for half a century? Huguette's great-half-nephew, André Baeyens, said he was told by his mother that Huguette bought Le Beau Château as a sort of bomb shelter during the Cold War. "She wanted a place where she could get away from the horrors."

    (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. "Huguette has always led a sort of reclusive life," said nephew Devine. "I think everybody's respected that. She wasn't just sitting in a room herself all her life. She had a small group of friends, confidants and assistants, very small, probably fewer than five people. Her world was always very small; when Anna died, it just became smaller."

    (Le Beau Château, Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Now 103, she may be in a nursing home or hospital. Relatives say they don't know, and fear that flowers and letters are discarded before they reach her. Her attorney, Wallace Bock, won't say. Devine said, "I think various family members have asked Mr. Bock for information, and he's always very respectful of his client and doesn't wish to reveal anything."

    (Barbara Cleary's Realty Guild) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Facing Central Park with curtains drawn, her Fifth Avenue apartments contain her mother's harp and Huguette's French dollhouses. Only a few times in decades has the building's staff seen her, a thin woman retreating into the shadows. They say she's not there now. André Baeyens said of his aunt, "She's withdrawn from this world."

    (Bill Dedman / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Her eighth-floor apartments contain two galleries, seven bedrooms, rooms for nine servants. And her fortune? Where will it go? "The rest of the family would respect her decision," said nephew Devine. "But if she leaves it all to some sketchy cause that she has no close connection to, that would be of some concern."

    ("Apartments for the Affluent," 1975, by Andrew Alpern) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Her attorney, Bock, said her hearing and eyesight have diminished with age — after all, she'll be 104 in June — but her mind is clear, and he receives instructions from her frequently by phone. He said he would not pass along a request for an interview. "She's a very private person. She doesn't care about publicity or reputation."

    (Huguette Clark in France, "Le Sénateur Qui Aimait La France," Andre Baeyens) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Tracing the lives of William Andrews Clark and his Huguette, we are left with mysteries. What does she remember of "Papa"? Is she well cared for? What will she leave to the world? "It's hard to find out what the real story was," said nephew Devine. "No one is alive — except for Huguette."

    (The Copper King Mansion) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. W.A. Clark Memorial Library
    Above: Slideshow (48) The Clarks: An American story of wealth, scandal and mystery
  2. Hugnette Clark Gower
    AP
    Slideshow (17) Mystery heiress

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