During a time when many of the country's rich and famous are tactfully hiding their lavish spending, David vs. Douglas-David, an ugly divorce case playing out this week in family court in Hartford, Conn., stands out for its made-for-the-tabloids tales of excess.
Marie Douglas-David, a Swedish countess and former investment analyst, says she should not have to live on the roughly $38 million her estranged husband has offered her as part of a divorce settlement. She is asking for about $100 million from former United Technologies CEO George David, 66, plus $130,000 a month in alimony.
Douglas-David, who left her high-level job at a New York investment bank after she married David, wants a judge to throw out a 2005 postnuptial agreement that entitled her to an estimated $38 million in cash, stock and a Park Avenue apartment, saying she was coerced into signing it.
Though the case hinges on the validity of that agreement, the trial has revealed some of the sordid details of the couple's on-again, off- again romance and their lavish spending amid the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. David is worth an estimated $329 million.
Both sides have accused each other of cheating; he with a woman he met at a flower shop and she with a Swedish fencing champion. David filed for divorce at least four times in seven years. Douglas-David told the New York Post that David's repeated divorce filings were followed by makeup trysts and that he used sex to control her.
William Beslow, one of Douglas-David's lawyers, who has worked divorce cases for Tatum O'Neal and Marla Maples, said that one of David's divorce filings was served to his wife when she was suffering from abdominal pain and preparing to undergo an endoscopy.
David claims his wife tried to divorce him during Christmas.
"I think it's about revenge. I think it's about hate. I think it's about anger," said Wendy Jaffe, a Beverly Hills, Calif., attorney and the author of "The Divorce Lawyers Guide to Staying Married."
"She's 36 years old. She's beautiful. She's bright. She's entitled to a lot of money. She could have a phenomenal future in front of her if she'd put the divorce behind her and move on," Jaffe said.
Then there's the money. Douglas-David said in court papers that she has no income but expenses of more than $53,000 a week -- more than the annual income of the average American household. At that rate, she claims she would spend $38 million in less than 15 years.
Her court filings note that her spending "may seem high," but her expenses are lower than they were before the divorce was filed in August 2007.
Her weekly expenses include $23,000 to maintain properties in Manhattan, the Hamptons and Sweden. In Detroit, where the median home price is $7,500, that would buy three houses a week.
Douglas-David also said she spends $2,200 a week for a personal assistant; $1,000 for hair and skin care; $600 for flowers; and $4,500 for clothing -- the equivalent of buying 13 pairs of jeans at the Gap every day.
There's also the $8,000 a week in travel, enough for a round-trip coach ticket from New York to Sweden every day.
David's lawyers say Douglas-David threatened to drag his name through the mud.