Jury Sides With Billionaire Donald Bren in Inflated Child Support Battle

Donald Bren does not have to pay adult children extra millions, jury rules.

ByABC News via GMA logo
August 19, 2010, 1:50 PM

Aug. 26, 2010— -- A jury sided today with real estate tycoon Donald Bren, ruling that he did not have to pay more than $130 million in back child support payments to his adult children.

Bren, No. 16 on Forbes' list of America's richest people, was not in the courtroom as the jury returned its 9-3 verdict stating that he had not made the children or their mother, his ex-girlfriend, any false promises.

Bren testified during court proceedings in Los Angeles that he believed he had already more than adequately provided for two children he fathered with his former girlfriend in the 1980s by paying for their health care and education, and providing cash for an estimated total of $9 million in their lifetimes.

"I feel for the two children," Bren testified, "but I believe I have provided for them."

The two children, Christie Alexis Bren, 22, and David Leroy Bren, 18, were seeking $400,000 a month retroactive to the days they were born -- a payout they said was commensurate to their father's lifestyle.

Hillel Chodos, attorney for the children, vowed to appeal.

The testimony from the billionaire was tense at times as he took the stand and testified about his purposeful distance from former girlfriend Jennifer Gold and the two children she bore.

"We weren't married, we weren't a family," Bren testified in front of his children. "I never told her I loved her."

Gold produced what she called love notes from Bren, 78, as evidence of their ongoing relationship.

"Jennifer, the enclosed check is for you to pick out your birthday suit. Love and kisses," one note read.

And another: "Happy Valentines Day. You see, I really do care in my own way. Love Donald."

Former Los Angeles prosecutor Robin Sax said the issue of whether Gold and Bren loved each other is a moot point compared to the valid agreement they had to make sure their children were provided for.

"The question of greed really seems apparent because they're coming back after the fact," she said.

That Bren, a fiercely private man, chose to go to trial rather than attempt to settle seems out of character. But Sax suggested that he may have had good reason to do so with two of those reasons waiting for him at home.

"There are probably a lot of other issues at play," she said, "including the fact that he is now married and has a 7-year-old."

Bren, chairman of the Irvine Co., has an estimated net worth of $12 billion. He is known as a generous philanthropist and political donor.