NEW YORK CITY — A comely Columbia Business School grad who had a lovechild with the late billionaire investor Bruce Wasserstein wants her little girl to have use of his custom-designed East Hampton pad to help the toddler connect to her dead dad.
For more than a year, Erin McCarthy has demanded that the trustees of Wasserstein's estate grant her 5-year-old daughter access to the 26-acre beachfront property, claiming that a child psychologist said the stays would be therapeutic.
When trustees rebuffed her requests, she went to court, claiming they play favorites by allowing Wasserstein's five other children to use the property, but barring her daughter because she was born out of wedlock.
Those five siblings offer a different reason — they don't want to be around McCarthy, 41, who they say destroyed their dad's longtime marriage and once broke into the East Hampton property, "terrorizing" little children.
While the five siblings acknowledge McCarthy's daughter as an equal beneficiary of his fortune, they say the girl barely spent time in the East Hampton home before Wasserstein's untimely death and that she doesn't hold the same cherished memories of the grounds as them.
"No one would want to be forced to share a home with strangers, particularly ones who caused the dissolution of their family," a lawyer for three of the siblings wrote in a response to McCarthy's legal action.
When Wasserstein, the head of investment firm Lazard and the owner of New York magazine, died suddenly at 61 in 2009, he left behind an estimated $2.2 billion fortune, a widow, three ex-wives and six children.
Five of his children — ranging from teenagers to 30-somethings — come from two marriages. The mother of his two youngest sons is Claude Wasserstein, the investor's third wife.
Wasserstein's marriage to Claude fell apart in 2007 when he began an affair with McCarthy, according to court papers. While they were together, McCarthy said he wanted her to get pregnant and helped her conceive through in-vitro fertilization. But the relationship was short-lived, ending before McCarthy gave birth to their daughter in June 2008.
The affair crushed Wasserstein's other children, who at the time were mourning the death of their beloved aunt, Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, and a grandmother.
"Rather than being available to focus on helping his family to heal and adjust, it was clear that my father was distracted by his affair with [McCarthy], and then by her objections to his termination of that affair," his 28-year-old son Scoop Wasserstein said in an affidavit connected to the legal action. "It felt like our father was taken away from us when we needed him most."
McCarthy again stressed out the family during a blowup in August 2008, when Wasserstein was vacationing at the East Hampton property with his two youngest sons. Though he no longer dated McCarthy, he paid for her and their infant daughter to stay in a nearby home so they could visit.
While out one day with his new girlfriend, his future fourth wife Angela Chao, Wasserstein bumped into McCarthy and their daughter on a street but didn't introduce them, according to multiple affidavits.
A sobbing McCarthy and her daughter later walked into Wasserstein's home while he was out, according to an affidavit by his sons' nanny. An estate manager eventually got McCarthy to leave and drove her home. But at the rental house, McCarthy nearly ran over the employee, the affidavit says.
About 3:30 a.m. the next day, McCarthy barged into the East Hampton home with her crying infant daughter. After discovering Chao in Wasserstein's bedroom, McCarthy began screaming, "You're dad's a bastard," within earshot of his sons, according to multiple affidavits.
Claude Wasserstein said the meltdown left her two boys traumatized.
"I have also been concerned for their safety since the incident, since Erin seems to have no qualms about terrorizing young children," she wrote in an affidavit.
In a court filing responding to the allegations, McCarthy said she didn't break into the home, noting she had a key to the front gate and knew the doors would be open. She said her outburst came about because she was suffering from postpartum depression. She also heard Chao's voice in the bedroom and didn't know Wasserstein had begun a new relationship, she said.
After Wasserstein's death, his sprawling East Hampton property and other assets were placed in trusts administered by longtime friends and business associates on behalf of his six children.
McCarthy's daughter eventually stands to inherit $75 million from a trust, according to court records. She also currently receives nearly $200,000 each summer to rent a Hamptons estate, lives in a multimillion Manhattan apartment paid for by Wasserstein and gets tens of thousands of dollars in support a month, court papers say.
But Wasserstein's East Hampton home, known as Cranberry Dune, appears to be the most coveted possession among all the siblings. The property, sitting on tony Further Lane next to Jerry Seinfeld's home, has been in the family for 20 years and has hosted older siblings' weddings and bar mitzvahs.
McCarthy said that while they were a couple, Wasserstein told her how he personally designed his estates and filled them with historic treasures in order to build a lasting legacy, like William Randolph Hearst did at his mansion in San Simeon, Calif.
"They are also homes of his creation, reflecting his tastes and personality that cannot be experienced by [my daughter] by other means," she wrote in her petition.
Those concrete connections to Wasserstein are the reasons why she sued the trustees in Manhattan Surrogate's Court in April 2012, accusing them of bias and demanding immediate access to the home.
After her filing, the five siblings offered the girl the choice of the Wasserstein's Santa Barbara ranch or Paris apartment if she would give up rights to Cranberry Dune. But the proposal failed.
David Stoll, a lawyer for Wasserstein's three oldest children, declined to comment for the story.
In March 2013, a judge dismissed McCarthy's filing. However, a proceeding on how to split Wasserstein's assets is ongoing.
The trustees maintain that the most equitable solution is to pay McCarthy's daughter a one-fifth share of the market value of the East Hampton home. The other siblings would then continue to own equal shares of the properties.
Eric Penzer, a lawyer appointed by the court to represent the interests of McCarthy's daughter, agrees with the trustees' solution and has filed court papers in support.
"[The child's] interests are my first, last and only concern," Penzer told DNAinfo.com New York. "I am here to make sure she gets everything that's she's entitled to."
Penzer also had a child psychiatrist examine McCarthy's daughter to determine the emotional impact of not visiting Cranberry Dune.
The psychiatrist's report said that the little girl has no meaningful memories of her dad and that her Hamptons visits would create arguments and hurt her development. The report also said that photographs were the best way for children to have a relationship with a dead parent, but noted the paucity of pictures at McCarthy's home.
"It is surprising that Erin proposes that [her daughter] needs a connection with Bruce's possessions, yet she has only two photographs of [her daughter] with her father in their apartment," he wrote in his report.
McCarthy's lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.