Elizabeth Hurley's love child and the battle for his family's fortune
Elizabeth Hurley’s love child and the battle for his family’s fortune: How his grandparents tried to cut Damian Hurley out of his inheritance… and his tragic father Steve Bing’s secret fight to win it back
- Elizabeth Hurley was three months pregnant when Steve Bing ‘disinherited’ son
- U.S businessman nicknamed ‘Bing Laden’ for cruel actions towards the actress
- Mail can exclusively reveal Bing supported Damian his entire life via a trust fund
Elizabeth Hurley was three months pregnant when her multi-millionaire ex-boyfriend put his name to a will which apparently disinherited their unborn baby.
‘I have recently been informed by an individual that she is pregnant with my child,’ Steve Bing stated in the document he signed on November 14, 2001.
The U.S. businessman, who earned himself the nickname ‘Bing Laden’ for his cruel behaviour towards Hurley added: ‘I hereby declare that whether or not such child is mine, it is my intention not to provide in this Will for this child (or any other child as to which I may be the father) . . . whether now living or hereafter born.’
Elizabeth Hurley, pictured with son Damian, was three months pregnant when her multi-millionaire ex-boyfriend put his name to a will which apparently disinherited their unborn baby
U.S businessman Steve Bing, who earned himself the nickname ‘Bing Laden’ for his cruel behaviour towards Hurley, signed a document declaring he would provide in his will for her child
With a flick of his pen, Bing appeared to cut off Hurley’s now 18-year-old son Damian as well as Damian’s half-sister, Kira — the daughter Bing would later discover he had fathered with U.S. tennis star Lisa Bonder.
This week it emerged she has finally proven she is his biological daughter through a posthumous DNA paternity test.
Yet, as we can exclusively reveal today, far from being a terrible father who abandoned his children, Bing supported Damian his entire life via a trust fund and fought for both his children’s financial futures in the months before he died.
He battled his own father in the courts to ensure neither his son or daughter were excluded from family trusts because of their illegitimacy and, we can also reveal, wrote tragic final letters to them both before taking his own life in June at the age of 55.
His actions demonstrate the extent to which Bing was determined to secure their financial futures, even while he was fighting his own battles with depression and addiction.
But Bing’s will, published last month, certainly throws a whole new light on the tangled financial web which his children must now negotiate if they are to inherit their birth-right.
For while it reveals that he left just $337,000 (£250,000) — a paltry sum for a man who inherited $600 million — the bulk of his fortune was in a tax-efficient ‘living trust’ set up in 1966, a year after his own birth.
In a stunning claim made to the Mail, Lisa Bonder said Bing had blown much of his vast wealth on business deals as well as political and charitable gifts.
Daily Mail can exclusively reveal Bing supported Damian his entire life via a trust fund and fought for both his children’s financial futures in the months before he died
‘Frankly, Steve’s estate is almost insolvent,’ she told this newspaper, claiming that Bing had signed up to billionaire Bill Gates’ ‘Giving Pledge’ — a campaign to encourage the super-wealthy to give their riches away in their lifetime to good causes.
She added: ‘He really managed to go through his inheritance, $600 million.’
What on earth, then, did Bing do with the fortune he inherited?
And what, if anything, can Damian and his half-sister now expect to inherit from a family fortune which stretches back to the 1920s when Bing’s grandfather, real estate developer Leo Bing, struck it rich in New York?
What is clear is that the enormous wealth he created has left a Shakespearean legacy of family feuds, and estrangement.
Bing’s father, Dr Peter Bing, set up various family trusts in 1980 to ‘benefit his future grandchildren’ who were either born or adopted at a young age by Steve and his sister Mary.
Such trusts are a common practice among wealthy U.S. families as a way of protecting fortunes from inheritance tax and avoiding probate after death while maintaining control and privacy.
But in March last year, Peter Bing attempted to cut Damian and Kira out of the ‘grandchildren trusts’ he’d set up on the basis that they were born out of wedlock — claiming that to the best of his knowledge, Steve ‘has never met Damian’ and he [Peter] would never consider him to be his grandchild ‘even if Steve Bing were to develop a relationship with him now, because he is nearing adulthood’.
Bing’s father, Dr Peter Bing, set up various family trusts in 1980 to ‘benefit his future grandchildren’ who were either born or adopted at a young age by Steve and his sister Mary
A furious Bing and Liz Hurley fought that court petition last year, accusing Peter and Steve’s sister Mary of trying ‘to orchestrate a massive money-grab’ to deprive Damian and Kira of their rightful inheritance in favour of Mary’s own two — legitimate — children, Lucy and Antony, who were 19 and 16 at the time of the court case.
Bing and Hurley accused Mary of an attempt at ‘increasing — perhaps even doubling — her own children’s share of the available fund’.
Judge Daniel Juarez agreed with them, saying there was ‘no ambiguity in the Trusts’ use of the term “grandchild”’ and that ‘The Trustee’s interpretation is unreasonable and not entitled to deference’.
While the exact value of the trust is not known, both Damian and Kira are likely to inherit several million each from it when Dr Bing dies.
An idea of their estranged 90-year-old grandfather’s wealth can be garnered from the $50 million (£37.6 million) donation he made to Stanford University in 2006.
Steve Bing inherited his $600 million fortune from Leo when he turned 18 in 1984. In 2010, the Los Angeles Business Journal estimated Steve’s worth at $590 million, suggesting that, a decade ago, he was still in possession of most of it.
So what of Lisa Bonder’s claim that Steve Bing had used up most of his fortune? Evidence appears to suggest the businessman, who dropped out of Stanford University in his first year to pursue a film-making career in Hollywood, was a prolific spender.
Aside from his attempts to make a name for himself in Hollywood — with the 2003 action comedy Kangaroo Jack and the 2004 Tom Hanks animated film Polar Express — his company Shangri-La Entertainment had interests in property and construction as well as film and music.
Lisa Bonder told the Mail Bing had blown much of his vast wealth on business deals as well as political and charitable gifts
He bought land in Bel Air, the most expensive area of Los Angeles, as well as a $13 million (£9.7 million) mansion and another for $8 million (£6 million). Despite this, he largely lived alone in hotels.
He was, however, a generous friend and embraced progressive causes even when there was no money to be made from them.
He bought a Boeing 737, and while he used it for his own drug-fuelled gambling trips to Las Vegas, he also lent it to former president Bill Clinton, at a cost of $200,000 (£150,590), for a trip to North Korea to secure the release of two U.S. journalists accused of entering the country illegally in 2009.
According to Lisa Bonder, Bing wrote ‘very large cheques’ to the Clinton Foundation as well as ‘The Dream Initiative’, an American non-profit organisation to help disadvantaged children from inner-city schools. He was also a generous donor to film industry unions.
He quietly gave millions of dollars to Democratic political causes as well as organisations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, amid efforts to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
He reportedly spent $40 million to finance Proposition 87 — a green energy initiative in California which failed.
He was also responsible for astonishing acts of largesse, paying for the children of friends to attend rehab or supporting U.S. army veterans and the homeless.
He was devoted to rock ’n’ roll star Jerry Lee Lewis and his wife, Judith and, when the couple fell on hard times 20 years ago, financially supported them. Shortly before Bing’s suicide, he bought Lewis, the man he called his ‘adopted father’, a Rolls-Royce.
Lisa Bonder added: ‘He was also a member of the Bill Gates organisation, The Giving Pledge, so that he pledged to give away his money during his lifetime. And he managed to do it. It was his money and he could do whatever he wanted with it.’
While Hurley was adamant she didn’t want a penny from Bing, documents from last year’s court battle against his own father Peter, revealed her former lover had been financially supporting Damian from the moment he was born
Perhaps he spent his own money knowing his children would be taken care of by other family trusts. He was, say those who knew him, a complex man.
He caused outrage after demanding a paternity test when Hurley became pregnant, claiming their relationship was not exclusive.
But while Hurley was adamant she didn’t want a penny from him, documents from last year’s court battle against his own father Peter, revealed her former lover had been financially supporting Damian from the moment he was born.
Money was undoubtedly at the root of his troubles. While it might have been expected to bring privilege and comfort, he complained, above all, of being lonely.
He told friends that he had been diagnosed with bipolar syndrome and went to rehab several times as he battled his addiction to drugs.
In his final week, living alone in a £22,500-a-month sparsely furnished apartment in LA’s upmarket Century City, he was speaking to his therapist twice a day.
Yet even now after his death, Bing’s financial complications are far from over. It has now emerged that at the time he died, Bing was being sued for $7 million (£5.2 million) following a failed business deal. His daughter Kira has also gone to court to try to take control of his estate.
While some will no doubt interpret this as a move to get her hands on a chunk of her father’s fortune, her mother Lisa Bonder told the Mail that Kira ‘will not get a dime’ from her bid to became a ‘special administrator’ and that ‘there is nothing to benefit from for her’.
She added: ‘She’s doing this because she’s a good person and it’s the right thing to do.
‘He’s her biological dad and she wants to make sure his estate is left in good standing.’
Bonder said Kira’s bid was a legal action to wind up the estate ‘because there is no one currently to do it’.
Indeed, court papers show that following the death several years ago of Bing’s appointed executor, his parents Peter and Helen, have refused to step in and settle their son’s affairs.
Given that they have washed their hands of him, Kira, as his eldest child and a U.S. citizen, is the next most obvious choice to take on the momentous task.
Kira confirmed her legal action on the phone to the Mail: ‘This is something I want to do but it’s complicated. We’re still figuring it out.’
Lisa Bonder, speaking at her $1 m home in an exclusive gated community in Wellington, Florida, explained further: ‘Kira has made this move in order to tidy up things.
‘Steve was being sued and he has nobody to get the case dismissed for him. I don’t even know who by but he was being sued for $7 million. Kira has to wind up that matter for him.
‘There was nobody to wind up his estate, no one to bring in the house receivables and to pay out whatever remaining debts he had. She’s not getting paid. This is no benefit to her. She has been disinherited from his estate. She doesn’t make a dime.’
Bonder added that Kira’s latest move is ‘entirely independent of anything to do with Kira and her grandparents’.
In the midst of all these ragtag financial entanglements, the most likely truth is that Damian and Kira’s entitlements are already set in legal stone — according to Californian trust laws and underscored by last year’s legal action by Bing and Hurley.
The Mail understands, however, that at the time of Bing’s death, his father had appealed last year’s decision. He is due to return to court once again in November.
Speaking not long after Bing took his life in June, Lisa Bonder said she and Hurley would work together to support their children.
‘We will do everything in our power and make sure they are supported,’ she said.
Hurley described her former partner as a ‘sweet, kind man’. Admitting that they went through some ‘tough times’, she said that in the past year they had become close again and last spoke on Damian’s 18th birthday in April.
In the end, it seems that despite the horror of their complex father’s death and the complications that still lie ahead, his children can rest assured that he cared about them.
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