In the recent past, tabloid newspapers have feasted on the story of 15-year-old twins, Georgia Noel Lahl Inman and Walker Patterson Inman III, identifying them as members of the Duke family and saying their great aunt, Doris Duke, left them with trust funds that have ballooned to $1 billion each.
No. No. No.
First of all, these two kids do not have Duke blood. Rather, they are descendants from the first marriage of Mr. Duke’s second wife, Nanaline Holt Inman Duke, pictured on the left, and no one in this line has ever been welcomed into the family. Small wonder too.
In her first marriage Nanaline had a son named Walker P. Inman, and he was, at best, an also ran. Or as some have put it, a drunk in his earlier years who never quite bloomed late.
His mother tried to push Walker into the Duke family businesses, especially after the family’s own candidate, Angier Buchanan Duke, forever a fraternity playboy, drowned in 1923 at age 38 in Long Island Sound. As Loyal Readers may recall, he and five friends had drunk abundantly at a country club and at 2:30 AM had stolen a dingy that collapsed as they tried to row out to Angier’s yacht moored off-shore because at 80-plus feet, it was too big to reach the dock. (Yes, the University’s best scholarships are named for Angier; we bet you thought he was a bookworm!)
But James B. Duke — known as Buck — would have nothing of Walker in his business empire.
Bucked preferred his only child — Doris — born when her father was 55. She was only 10 when Angier died and 13 when her father departed. But even if Doris had been older, women were just not equipped, in the contemporary view, for the rough and tough world of financial manipulation and international business. So Buck Duke’s empire passed on to professional managers. We know some of their names: Allen Building. Perkins Library, Sands Building to start the list.
Buck Duke had showered his wife with substantial money and she was able, in her own right, to give millions to the University via a hidden foundation she created behind the walls of The Duke Endowment. She also took care of her son Walker — which is the principal source of wealth for him and his descendants. But not billions.
His son, however, Walker Jr., known as Skippy, became quite a public figure as he went about his hobbies: gourmet chef, an avid gun, knife and sword collector, an expert on steam engines, and a licensed pyrotechnic who liked to ignite grand fireworks displays at the plantation. He loved tattoos. And he loved women: Skippy had five marriages.
Doris — feeling sorry for Skippy — had helped him over the years and in her own will had given him an extra little bit. She set aside $7 million for a trustee to invest, with five percent of the balance to be paid to Skippy every year. That’s $350,000 annually from someone he hardly knew. And more if the principal grew.
With his passing, the trust ended and the money got mingled with funds for the charitable foundation that Doris set up. His heirs did not get a cent from Doris. .
And who were the heirs?
In a messy divorce from wife #4, the kids wound up with Walker and wife #5 Daralee Inman..
But at age 57, a maid found Skippy dead in a Colorado hotel room, the coroner ruling he died from an overdose of methadone. Yes, the drug that is used to treat heroin addicts. And no, no one was quite sure why he was in Colorado on February 24, 2010.
Not long after the funeral, the mother, wife #4, uprooted the kids and holed up in a Park City, Utah ski resort for a tony $120,000 a month. She demanded that JP Morgan Chase, the New York bank that controlled the trust fund, pay for the accommodations – and hand over $29 million so she could buy a ranch.
And we learned in a legal proceeding trying to pry the money out of JP Morgan Chase, that’s the total in the Trust fund. Not $1 billion each as their father had once blurted. But just $14.5 million each. The twins will gain outright control of this money at age 21, in six years.
Rebuffed in her attempt to spend the $29 million now, wife #4 got the seller of the ranch to reduce the price to $14 million. Still the trustee balked. OK, she said, how about $5 million for new digs in South Carolina. And again, the trustee said no.
As if all that were not enough, the twins, in Utah, were expelled from their private school because no one paid the tuition. The next day, though, the trustee relented on that aspect of the mess. Wife #4: “The trustee continues to embarrass and disrespect this family, putting us through hell.”
Oh yes, Halloween last year. Wife #4 asked for an extra $6,000 to throw a scary party for the twins, but the trustee only paid $2,800.
And now on to the 5th wife. One-time topless dancer Daisha Inman is not taking all this sitting down. For one thing, she has no income of her own and had been living on $15,900 a month from the trust fund designed to cover the basic expenses for the twins, like rent, food and entertainment. With the twins gone, that’s ended.
Daisha — like wife #4 — likes to run up bills. In 2010, not long after Skippy’s death, she had the gumption to ask the trustee for an extra $50,000 for Christmas gifts, including a trained Quarter horse, a snowmobile, go-carts, and trips to Disney World because, apparently, the fantasy at home is not enough.
In the latest twist, lawyers have gotten involved more deeply. The Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan has jurisdiction of all affairs that relate back to Nanaline Duke. This is a court that is best described as a lot of people with tangled trust funds completely surrounded by lawyers bleeding the heirs through fees for patronage assignments. Indeed, the court started by appointing a lawyer from Long Island to represent the kids, and he’s just gotten to work. At an hourly rate.
In late developments, wife #4 wants $25,000 in order to retain a lawyer to start a criminal investigation into wife #5′s treatment of the kids.
Bystanders had noticed her talking loudly and stumbling, and were concerned she would drive away in her Mercedes SUV. A judge convicted her, but deferred sentencing for six months if she stays out of trouble.
To be continued.