Ex-wife needs $433,991 a month

Kate Thayer and Amanda Marrazzo
Chicago Tribune
October 2016

  With multiple homes, a full-time private chef, vacations, entertainment and $746 for pet care, Alicia Stephenson needs more than $400,000 a month to meet her living expenses, according to testimony from a financial expert who specializes in divorces.
  Cathleen Belmonte Newman, a certified divorce financial analyst, said she completed a "lifestyle analysis" to determine that Stephenson would need $433,991 "net" in monthly maintenance to keep up a standard of living similar to what she had during her marriage to Richard Stephenson, the multimillionaire founder of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America hospital network.
  Seven years after she filed for divorce, a trial is underway in McHenry County to determine Alicia Stephenson's financial settlement. She signed a prenuptial agreement before the couple married in 1991, but it said monthly maintenance would be up for negotiation if the marriage lasted more than seven years. The two sides also are at odds over her possible stake in several other assets.
  Newman completed her third day on the stand Tuesday after Richard Stephenson's attorneys scrutinized her analysis, methods and qualifications and whether the expenses she outlined are simply "desires and wants."
  Much of the trial, now in its third week, has featured testimony from Alicia Stephenson's friends and business associates who have outlined her lavish lifestyle during the marriage: trips on private jets, several homes complete with staff and high-end furnishings and artwork, millions of dollars in jewelry, couture clothing, fancy parties, expensive vehicles, motorcycles and yachts.
  The planner said Alicia Stephenson was "never on any budgetary constraints."
  Newman testified that Stephenson will need about $9 million total to buy a condominium in Chicago and a home in Naples, Fla., she has been eyeing. Monthly mortgage and taxes would be little more than $30,000 a month, plus about $2,800 in assessments to pay for the Chicago condo. The home in Naples would cost about the same. Stephenson is also seeking $23,200 a month for waterfront rental property in Michigan, where Stephenson wants to vacation from May to September. During the marriage, she and Richard Stephenson owned residences in Michigan, Barrington Hills, the Virgin Islands, Colorado and Tennessee, according to testimony.
  Another expense Newman outlined was more than $100,000 per month for entertainment, including trips to the Sundance Film Festival, Napa Valley and Fashion Week in California. She said Alicia Stephenson regularly dined out and attended sporting events, Broadway plays and concerts during the marriage.
  She also wants four motorcycles that would cost her $1,070 to maintain, plus two boats and a four-person watercraft, Newman said.
  The financial analyst explained that she typically uses bank and credit card statements and other financial records from the time the couple were married. In this case, many of those records were not provided, she said, so she relied more on records of Alicia Stephenson's more recent spending, as well as on what Stephenson told her was typical of the couple's lifestyle.
  For instance, Newman calculated the cost of a trip to the Rose Bowl on a private jet as part of an estimate of future vacation expenses because the couple had attended the football game in the past, and other, similar sporting events. But while the couple traveled around the world, the report includes only trips inside the United States and to Mexico, according to testimony.
  During his cross-examination, Richard Stephenson's attorney, David Grund, questioned if Newman was allowed to "accept hearsay," and if her report could have been compiled by anyone with a high school diploma entering data into a computer program.
  Alicia Stephenson's camp pointed out Newman was accepted by the court as an expert in this area, and she referenced her advanced degrees in finance and her experience testifying in divorce cases.
  She also disputed Grund's claim that the line items in the report were based solely on Alicia Stephenson's "desires and wants."
  "I don't believe they're pulled out of thin air," Newman said.
  Lawyers have asked the judge for an additional two weeks to complete the trial.

Kate Thayer is a Tribune reporter; Amanda Marrazzo is a freelance reporter.

At divorce trial, cancer hospitals founder denies $12M gift to tea party group

Robert McCoppin and Amanda Marrazzo
Chicago Tribune

  The ongoing divorce trial involving the founder of Cancer Treatment Centers of America had focused mainly on his personal and financial spheres, but it's also now touched briefly on his political activity and ties to an influential national conservative organization.
  Testifying in a McHenry County courtroom this week, Richard Stephenson, the multimillionaire founder of the private cancer hospital network, responded no when asked by his ex-wife Alicia's attorney if he had ever directed an employee to "evaluate" a $12 million contribution to FreedomWorks, a group closely tied to the tea party movement. Stephenson has sat on its board of directors since 2007, he said.
  Stephenson, 77, also denied directing anyone to provide money to former Republican Congressman and House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who in 2012 resigned from FreedomWorks. Armey himself told ABC News that year that he agreed to resign as part of a deal with Stephenson under which Armey would receive $8 million over 20 years to do consulting work.
  The disputed contributions were originally reported in the Washington Post in 2012 and attributed mostly to anonymous employees. Two election watchdog groups objected to the contributions, saying they were illegal because they were hidden through corporate donations, prompting the U.S. Federal Election Commission to look into the transactions. But, as is common, the commission deadlocked along party lines this year, and took no action.
  In their finding, the Democratic members of the FEC concluded that Stephenson "made 20 contributions totaling more than $12 million" to the group under the names of Specialty Investment Group Inc. and Kingston Pike Development LLC. Those companies were formed shortly before the 2012 general election, made contributions to FreedomWorks within days, then dissolved less than a year later, according to the commissioner's so-called statement of reasons.
  "The available information demonstrated that Stephenson pledged to make $10-12 million in contributions at an August 2012 FreedomWorks retreat ... and Stephenson dictated how the contributions would be spent," the statement reads.
  Of this and similar cases it wrote about in the statement, the commissioners said: "These matters involved a number of contributors who concealed their identities by using limited liability companies to make large contributions to ... super PACs."
  The statement by Republican FEC commissioners, by contrast, concluded that the contributions raised a novel legal question in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United, which said corporations and unions can make unlimited political contributions. The GOP commissioners wrote that it was therefore unclear if making a contribution through an LLC was legal and called for dismissal of the case.
  A lawyer for Richard Stephenson, the multimillionaire founder of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, acknowledged during his divorce trial Tuesday that he can afford to pay the $400,000 per month in maintenance that his ex-wife, Alicia, is seeking.
  Stephenson has been testifying this week at a trial to determine what he will have to pay his ex-wife in their divorce settlement, as they have been unable to come to terms in the seven years since Alicia Stephenson filed to dissolve the marriage.
  Her lawyer has sought to shed light on Richard Stephenson's finances to determine Alicia's stake in some of his various financial and real estate holdings and other assets.
  The couple were married in 1991 in a storybook wedding at their home in Barrington Hills and raised a daughter who is now grown. But Alicia filed for divorce in 2009, and the marriage was dissolved earlier this year. The couple had a prenuptial agreement that kept their individual property separate after marriage, but which called for Richard to provide up to $250,000 for a house for Alicia, and for monthly payments to be determined by negotiation or by a court.
  Alicia Stephenson, who gets nearly $66,000 a month in temporary maintenance from her ex-husband, is seeking ongoing payments that would net her $400,000 per month.
  Richard Stephenson testified that over the years, he has made donations to various foundations and churches, including Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington. He said the money came out of his own salary, dividends, bonuses or rent money.
  Alicia Stephenson's attorney, Elizabeth Felt Wakeman, also asked him specifically about whether he made donations to FreedomWorks. He testified that he does not remember how much money he has given the group over the years but that he has never given more than $2 million in a single year. He said he helps the group with strategy and research.
  Wakeman asked Stephenson if he ever directed a former employee to "evaluate" a donation of $12 million to the foundation and he said no. Wakeman then inquired as to whether he had ever directed an entity — or directed one entity to direct another entity — to pay a stipend or make donations to Armey. Stephenson said no to each question.
  In his 2012 interview with ABC News, Armey said Stephenson stepped in amid internal turmoil at FreedomWorks because he "was concerned I was going to resign and sue them before the election. He didn't want an uproar. We all understood if I take any action that made it at all public it would be a press nightmare and we didn't want that before the election.
  "So Dick (Stephenson) was saying, 'You know, Armey, my family and I have heard your story, about how you can't afford to retire and we want to help with your retirement,' " Armey said.
  Neither Armey nor anyone from FreedomWorks could be reached for comment for this story.
  At the trial in McHenry County, Wakeman returned to what has been her main line of questioning since the proceedings began Oct. 17: the former couple's lavish lifestyle. She posed questions about various sporting events Richard Stephenson has gone to with friends and his former wife. She asked him to detail luxurious trips, including one of his first dates with Alicia, when he took her to the Super Bowl on his private jet. He said he later gave her a $354,000, 10-carat diamond engagement ring.
  He described a 10-month family trip around the world where he, Alicia, their daughter and a nanny visited all seven continents.
  He further spoke of the former couple's designer clothing, motorcycles and 10 horse-drawn carriages, prompting the judge to ask why Alicia Stephenson's camp needed to know about that, and if he would be expected to factor in the cost of carriages into a settlement. This comment ignited a round of laughter in the otherwise tense courtroom.
  Richard Stephenson also testified about his wine collection, quipping that it was fairly extensive "until she moved out."
  Wakeman told Stephenson he had "created a great empire of wealth and organizations and philanthropy," to which he replied, "Thank you."
  Wakeman spent much of Thursday morning questioning Dennis Lynde, global managing director for the cancer hospital network and another Richard Stephenson-affiliated company, International Capital Investment Co., about the purchases of several assets and payments for renovations.
  Lynde testified that Richard Stephenson has, through trusts or other entities separate from Alicia Stephenson, purchased homes in Indiana and in Paradise Valley, Ariz., as well as 400 distressed homes in Arizona and others in Florida.
  Wakeman asserted that a portion of the funds used for those purchases leads back to entities that Alicia Stephenson has ownership in.
  Wakeman also sought to make connections between money that Richard Stephenson has spent since the couple's separation to accounts in which she said Alicia Stephenson has a stake. Wakeman cited work done on a gate for his home in Barrington Hills just before his 2014 union ceremony with the woman he legally married this past June, as well as $400,000 in renovations to a home in the Virgin Islands.
  David Grund, Richard Stephenson's lead attorney, objected, calling such questions "absolutely irrelevant." He also noted that any renovations done on the properties where Alicia Stephenson has part ownership would serve to benefit her as well, and that the parties have already agreed that she has part ownership of 10 entities.
  Wakeman also asked Lynde if Richard Stephenson, based on his "current status," could afford to pay $600,000 gross in monthly maintenance; Lynde replied that Stephenson could not. Wakeman has previously said in court that she is seeking $400,000 net for Alicia Stephenson's monthly maintenance.
  Earlier, when Richard Stephenson was on the stand, Wakeman asked him about his lawyer's comment during opening statements that Alicia Stephenson was "along for the ride."
  Richard Stephenson testified that he never said that to his former wife and did not believe that was the case during their marriage but that "I now believe" the statement to be true.

Robert McCoppin is a staff reporter; Amanda Marrazzo is a freelance reporter.
Twitter @RobertMcCoppin