'Damn Yankees' Composer's Widow and Son in Fight Over Who Pays Death Tax

By James Fanelli on July 10, 2013 8:12am 

 Richard Adler (left) composed the lyrics and music to beloved Broadway musicals "Damn Yankees" and "Pajama Game" with Jerry Ross. He died in 2012. Adler's son Andrew (right) is in a dispute with the composer's fifth wife over paying estate taxes.
Richard Adler (left) composed the lyrics and music to beloved Broadway musicals "Damn Yankees" and "Pajama Game" with Jerry Ross. He died in 2012. Adler's son Andrew (right) is in a dispute with the composer's fifth wife over paying estate taxes.
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Clint Spaulding/PatrickMcMullan.com

UPPER EAST SIDE — The $22 million estate of "Damn Yankees" composer Richard Adler is in tax limbo because his son and fifth wife have both balked at paying his death dues, court records show.

The estate of the late Broadway great owes an estimated $1 million in state taxes and administrative costs, but his widow and only surviving son each want the other to cover the costs, according to a co-executor of the will.

"There seems to be no spirit of compromise that is likely to resolve these disputes quickly," the executor, Norman Solovay, said in his Feb. 14 petition asking the Manhattan Surrogate's Court to intervene and facilitate a resolution.

Solovay says Adler's widow, Susan Alison Ivory, won't generate cash to cover the tax problem by selling the $9 million Southampton pad left to her in the will. She instead wants Adler's son Andrew to sell his inheritance, a $3 million Upper East Side apartment, but he has vehemently refused, according to the petition.

The standstill stems from ill will over who got what in the will, Solovay says.

Adler, who also scored the Broadway hit "Pajama Game," died at 90 in 2012, but in the last five years of his life, he added three codicils to his will that drastically reduced Andrew's inheritance and gave more money to Ivory, 69, and her two kids from a previous marriage.

Andrew's lawyer, Eve Markowitz, has claimed that Richard Adler was seriously ill when he drafted the codicils and that Ivory "assumed total responsibility for his care," according to Solovay's petition.

"[The lawyer] has suggested that during this time [Adler] became totally dependent on Ms. Ivory and executed codicils at her direction," he said.

As a result of the will's additions, Andrew, a painter mentored by renowned abstract artist Willem de Kooning, was left his dad's Manhattan pad and little more.

Ivory, who is also a co-executor of the estate, says there was nothing fishy about the codicils. The adjustments were borne out of love, she said, pointing to her 21-year marriage with Adler — the longest he had with any of his wives.

Under the terms of the codicils and will, Ivory received the Southampton home and half of Adler's music rights, which bring in $300,000 to $500,000 a year, according to the petition.

Ivory's two children, who are from a previous marriage, also got pieces of the estate. Her daughter, Katherine, whom Adler adopted, was bequeathed $1 million and already owned a 6-percent stake in the composer's music rights. Ivory's son, Charles Shipman, inherited $300,000 and also had a 6-percent share of the music rights. 

Through gifts during Adler's life and bequests in the will, Andrew's two children received trusts that each hold 18.5 percent ownership of the music rights.

Before his death, Adler anticipated his son and wife would squabble over his fortune and added a provision in the codicils that state Solovay, his longtime lawyer, should mediate and arbitrate any conflicts between them.

In his petition, Solovay says he is hesitant to mediate their dispute because he also supervises the trusts of Andrew's children and fears a conflict of interest.

Solovay has also asked the court for an accounting of how money from the music rights has been spent, noting that he learned shortly before Adler's death that Ivory and her children used the cash to fund "an extravagant lifestyle that they could not otherwise afford or sustain without it."

Solovay declined to comment about the petition. Andrew's lawyer was unavailable for comment because she was on vacation, her office said. Ivory could not be reached for comment.

A hearing over the tax dispute will take place in the next two weeks unless a settlement is reached, a source said.

Adler and his partner Jerry Ross wrote the music and lyrics to "Damn Yankees" and "Pajama Games" in the 1950s. Both won the Tony award for best musical.

Adler also produced John F. Kennedy's presidential birthday bash that featured Marilyn Monroe's breathy rendition of "Happy Birthday."

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