Friday, January 26, 2007

Jack Kent Cooke's 19-year Old Daughter Suing Dead Father

When 5 million dollars isn't enough

Still-dead Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke is at it again, tormenting his family from beyond the grave. First, he cut his third wife Suzanne Cooke, to whom he was married for only a few months in 1987 when he was 74 and she 31 totally out of his will, enacted when JKC died in April 1997. Suzanne got zilch, nada, squadoosh out of the more than one billion dollars in assets JKC controlled. Her daughter Jacqueline Cooke (right, with mother Suzanne in 2002), who did not meet her father JKC until she was three years old, is the baby that Suzanne refused to abort, leading in part to the bitter split between JKC and Suzanne weeks after marrying.

Then, as chronicled here, JKC structured the disposition of the Redskins and Redskins Stadium such that his son John Kent Cooke was unable to purchase the team, opening the door for Dan Snyder to sink (NYT Select) 800 million into the team in May 1999. John Kent Cooke is now pondering life on the beach in Bermuda.

Now, Jacqueline cannot get by on the 50 thousand dollars per year she is entitled to by her trust. It is a graduated trust, giving her 25 thousand per year until she turned 16, then 50 thousand until she turns 21, then 100 thousand until she turns 35, then she is entitled to 8 percent of the trust per year. If the trust is currently worth 6 million, 8 percent is somewhere near 480 thousand dollars per year. Not bad for being born.

But it is not enough. She owes 23 thousand dollars to Southern Methodist University and cannot resume classes there, so she is suing her dead father's estate for more money, claiming that the money to which she is entitled was not to be sucked up by educational costs, but rather was to be her 'walking around money.'

I'm not a probate attorney, but I do know revocable trusts usually include specific direction, such as educational costs, as to how the money is to be spent. The article indicates the distributions are to be used for "education, health, maintenance and support," and Jacqueline's main beef is that JKC's executors deleted the words 'as necessary' from the trust documents. Jacqueline interpreted those words as meaning her father meant to provide for her no matter the cost, and the executors believe she is entitled only to what the papers say.

As with all matters involving bitter family divides and large sums of money, it's hard to know exactly what's going on here. Does her mother Suzanne have the ability to provide anything for Jacqueline? Should she be constrained to live within the limits of her trust distributions? And if not, is the trust in any way available for her? If the trust is hers and an asset she counts against her net worth, why did she wait until she was shut out of school and filing a lawsuit to explore getting a loan against the amount? What role does the mother play in all this? She was close to fabulous wealth for a brief period in the 80s, and may believe her dead husband still owes her, and this may be a way to pry some out of him without really hurting the daughter.

Poor Jacqueline even called the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the educational nonprofit with the courage to help white people, presumably to apply for a grant, not to ask if she could have some of her dad's money. Whatever the purpose, she was turned away. Imaginary telephone conversation:

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation: Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, this is Bernard.

Jacqueline Cooke (sobbing): hi I'm Jackie Cooke Jack Kent Cooke's daughter and I'm out of money and I'm only 19 and I can't go back to school and no one else can help me can you please help me I'd like to apply for a grant from my father's foundation (hopeful)

JKCF: I'm sorry Ms. Cooke but with your net worth you do not qualify for our educational programs.

JC: @#$% my @#$%ing father and @#$% you too, Ber-nard!!!

I think she should have no problem getting a loan against the priniciple if getting through school is all she needs. If not, then no amount will satisfy her. If it's SMU she's attending, maybe she can work the debt off at the George W. Bush Presidential Library in the No Millionaire Left Behind wing.

That old Jack Kent Cooke, he was a rascal and some days, it's like he's still with us.


Update 26 February 2007: Jackie Cooke is back in the news.

Jack Kent Cooke: AP via Washington Post

Jacqueline and Suzanne Cooke at the 2002 Saks Fifth Avenue and Washington Life Honor Men of Substance and Style event: detail from photo here (wouldn't it be funny if they were honoring JCK?)