Mon, Mar 30, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Divorce case dominates US tabloids

MR AND MRS DAVID: The case has grabbed public attention as the court hears how a high-living Swedish countess, 36, forced ‘control freak’ tycoon, 66, to have sex

THE OBSERVER , NEW YORK

In this composite photo, former United Technologies Corp chairman, George David, and Swedish countess Maria Douglas-David arrive at Superior Court in Hartford, Connecticut, on March 19 for the second day of divorce proceedings.

PHOTO: AP

It is the divorce case with everything: an aging, rich husband; a 180cm, much younger, blonde Swedish countess wife; allegations of affairs and forced sex and an unseemly squabble for US$100 million.

No wonder the marital problems of George David, the 66-year-old chairman of United Technologies, and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Countess Marie Douglas-David, 36, have captivated the US public in a case that has been dubbed the divorce of the century.

In times of recession-induced anxiety, tabloid newspapers have had a field day with the lurid details of the marital collapse that has played out in a Connecticut courtroom. Jim Shea, a columnist for the local Hartford Courant, said the spat was “the ultimate divorce steel-cage match.”

The heart of the issue is simple, though one for which many ordinary struggling Americans might have little sympathy. The countess has been offered US$43 million as a settlement but says it is not enough to fund her lifestyle. So she is suing for US$100 million.

“She always wants more, more, more. Too much is never enough,” said George David’s lawyer, Anne Dranginis.

Not surprisingly that has not endeared her to segments of the tabloid press. “Divorce diva demands $100m for bare essentials,” said one headline in the New York Post.

To back up her claims, Douglas-David filed papers in court showing she needed at least US$53,000 a week to cover her living expenses, including US$4,500 a week for clothes, US$8,000 for travel and US$1,500 for eating out. Douglas-David argued that her husband’s offer would not fund such a lifestyle for longer than 15 years and as a result she had no choice but to go to court.

But it is the appalling behavior of the protagonists, ruthlessly detailed by their legal teams last week, that has truly riveted the public. Neither party comes out of the case looking good, or, indeed, even mildly versed in decent behavior.

Douglas-David has portrayed her husband as an emotionally cold control freak who spent several hundred thousand dollars on her each week, but created a “golden cage.” She has accused him of having an affair, of teasing her about being childless, of showing no sympathy after a miscarriage and of refusing to give her any control of her own money.

She has claimed he once told her: “If you improve and behave, you can have in-vitro fertilization.”

She has also claimed that he taunted her with separation threats as a form of sexual foreplay, serving divorce papers four separate times and then wooing her back into the marital bed, sometimes on the same day.

David did not help his own cause. In one piece of testimony, he denied that Douglas-David gave him valuable financial advice about his business.

“I don’t remember specific conversations with Marie ... it’s like you go home and talk to the dog,” he told a stunned court.

But David was not the only sinner. In his evidence, he has detailed how Douglas-David tried to serve her own divorce papers in the spectacular setting of a marriage guidance session, which he was attending alone. His lawyers have also detailed an affair the countess allegedly had with a Swedish fencing champion. David spent almost US$250,000 to hire five private investigators to track the pair in Stockholm.

Indeed, David’s lawyers have sought to portray Douglas-David as a sexual predator who bullied her husband into sex. David said his wife had frequently physically forced him to have sex, in effect raping him. Taking the stand, David was asked about one particular liaison with her in Sweden.

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