In October, Long Island’s East End was shocked by the murder of one of its wealthiest residents: 52-year-old Ted Ammon, who’d built much of his $80 million fortune as one of the top LBO players at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in the 1980s, was discovered naked and bludgeoned in the master bedroom of his house on Middle Lane. Ammon was popular with business colleagues, police found, but his private life, once seemingly idyllic—the adored young twins, the five homes, the luxury cars—held several ominous signs, not least the vicious divorce battle with his second wife, Generosa.
By Michael Shnayerson – VanityFair.com
On the morning of October 20, 2001, a crisp autumn Saturday, he came out to East Hampton on his own in his silver Porsche. Turning into the driveway of his gabled, six-bedroom, English-country-style manor house on Middle Lane always buoyed his spirits. Ted Ammon liked his weekends alone here, the more so now that the battles of a brutal divorce were nearly done. He stood to lose nearly half of his $80 million fortune, but at 52 he had reached the point, as one friend would put it, where time was more important than money. Among the assets he would retain, to his great relief, was this house.
A sharp investment banker who had been a senior partner at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) in the wild LBO days of the 1980s, Ammon was also a bit of a flake who sometimes did “disappearing acts,” as one colleague put it, failing to show up when he said he would. So Mark Angelson, his partner in a new boutique private equity firm, Chancery Lane Capital, hardly worried when Ammon missed a morning meeting on Monday, October 22. When noon passed, though, and the household help in the city reported that Ammon hadn’t called to make after-school plans for his 11-year-old twins, Alexa and Gregory, Angelson suddenly got very nervous. Forgetful as Ammon might be about some things, he was absolutely focused on his kids. Angelson reportedly called all the numbers: the East Hampton house, the New York apartment, Ammon’s cell. No answer. Angelson had a bad feeling about this. Perhaps his partner, vigorously athletic as he was, had had a heart attack.
Together with Ammon’s chauffeur, Angelson flew out to the East Hampton Airport on a corporate helicopter, arriving a little before five p.m., and took a cab to 59 Middle Lane. Ammon’s Porsche was in the driveway. When Angelson and the chauffeur entered the house, they were greeted by Ammon’s three dogs, two golden retrievers and a chocolate Lab. The dogs seemed hungry and confused. Angelson called Ammon’s name. No response. By one report, they saw a trail of blood on the stairs. In the bedroom they found Ammon lying nude on his bed, his head bludgeoned. Hands trembling, Angelson called the East Hampton Village Police. The time was 5:19 p.m.
Three policemen responded to the call within minutes, and in the gathering darkness quickly confirmed that no one else was in the house. They also determined that the house’s state-of-the-art alarm system, replete with nine cameras, had been turned off. Then they sealed the house, with the body still in it, and waited outside for Suffolk County Homicide. It took almost an hour for the county detectives to arrive from Riverhead. They went from room to room. Burglary appeared not to be the motive; nothing was ransacked or seemed out of place. The detectives tentatively determined that the victim had died from the blunt-force trauma of several blows to his head, though by one report the body was also “severely cut.” Time of death was hard to say. Ammon’s body temperature had fallen to the ambient temperature of the master bedroom, suggesting he may have died as early as Saturday night. Later, however, the houseguest of an immediate neighbor would recall that on Sunday, as he was painting a watercolor by his host’s back pond, he heard several cars crunching over the gravel of Ammon’s driveway.
By Tuesday afternoon, the local police had roped off both ends of the lane to keep television crews and tabloid reporters from swarming over Ammon’s deep front lawn and English garden. The murder was big news. Middle Lane bisects one of the wealthiest sections of the most elegant of the Hamptons. Its houses, like Ammon’s, are not old, white-elephant mansions, as in Southampton’s highest-hedged enclaves. Nor are they brand-new, obscenely large empires of ego, like Ira Rennert’s potato-field-size atrocity in Sagaponack. Nearly all look old, whether they are or not: large, comfortable, shingled country houses, exquisitely landscaped. Their owners may not have old money, but they know how to act as if they do. A country block away is the Maidstone Club, with its pond-encircling golf course, and Further Lane, where vast estates, including comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s, stretch down to the beach and the pounding Atlantic surf. Murders don’t happen here. But now one had.
If the detectives found clues, they weren’t acknowledging them. If they had a suspect, they weren’t saying who it was. And so, over morning coffee at Dreesen’s Market and drinks at the Blue Parrot Bar, rumors began to swirl. Surely this was a crime of passion, committed by someone who had shared Ammon’s bed that night. How, after all, could a stranger have entered the house without tripping the alarm system and rousing the dogs? A startling police report fueled those rumors. A naked man had been reported running down Middle Lane that very weekend. That clinched it. Ammon was a closet homosexual, the locals muttered. He had taken home some rough trade and paid the ultimate price. He had only to drive the mile or so from his house down to Two Mile Hollow Beach, where gay men seek one another out each night for furtive encounters in the dunes. Before long, the gay murder scenario had acquired all manner of noir-ish details—including, reported syndicated columnist Cindy Adams, dismemberment.
To Ammon’s close friends, the gay murder scenario seemed utterly wrong and deeply offensive: a public bludgeoning of a man already beaten to death. The Ted Ammon they had known always seemed strongly, even aggressively, heterosexual. Anyone can fool his friends about his sexual proclivities. But the cornerstone of the theory crumbled when East Hampton Village Police chief Randall Sarris noted that the naked man had been reported on Friday, October 19, at 11 a.m., while Ammon was still in Manhattan. On at least one other occasion at a nearby beach, a man matching the naked man’s description had exposed himself—to women.
On closer examination, it seemed likelier that the murder had been committed, directly or indirectly, by someone Ted Ammon had known for some time. Widely liked by his business colleagues, Ammon had managed to anger a number of people in his personal life. In the aftermath of his death, they stood as so many characters in a real-life game of Clue. Was it embittered servants, with a candlestick, in the drawing room? The widow’s boyfriend, with a lead pipe, in the conservatory?
Or was it, perhaps, the widow herself, with a wrench, in the library?
For all of his wealth, his five homes, six cars, and countless toys, Ted Ammon had just suffered the hardest stretch of his life, beginning in the summer of 2000, when his second wife, the former Generosa Rand, 45, filed for divorce and, according to several friends, embarked on a campaign of domestic revenge. As her demands mounted, and her fury reportedly poisoned almost every friendship she had, Ammon must have wondered how his life would have turned out if he’d called a different apartment-rental agency back in 1983.
Ammon had made the appointment for an early-evening hour, after work, to look at an apartment in the low 90s on the far East Side of Manhattan. True to form, he failed to show. The next morning, he got a call at his office from the agent. She was angry that he’d stood her up. Not only was it rude, she said, but the neighborhood was unsafe after dark. Intrigued by her tough tone, Ammon asked her out on a date by way of apology. When he saw her, he was more impressed. Blonde and trim-figured, seven years younger than he, Generosa Rand was, as one friend later put it, a spark plug, passionate and strongly opinionated. Working as a rental agent was just her day job, she explained to the handsome, six-foot-four-inch investment banker. Really, she was an artist. And Ammon, obviously, was a catch.
By this point in his life, the 33-year-old Ammon had already enjoyed a remarkable rise. After a modest upbringing in East Aurora, New York, a town outside of Buffalo, he majored in economics at Bucknell University. Rangy and popular, he had joined Phi Gamma Delta and, starting in his sophomore year, had played on the varsity lacrosse team. After passing both English and U.S. bar exams without going to law school, he came to New York, worked at two law firms, then grew restless. On Wall Street, the freewheeling 80s were about to begin, and Ammon wanted in. At the age of 30, he managed to join Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. By the time he met Generosa, he was a partner helping orchestrate leveraged buyouts. After a failed marriage of nine years with no children to a woman named Randee Day, he was also a free man.
Generosa had a scrappier story to tell. She related to friends that she and an older sister had been raised by their single mother, a church secretary named Marie Therese LeGaye, in Laguna Beach, California. When Generosa was 10, she said, her mother had died of brain cancer. In leafing through her late mother’s photo albums, she came upon a photograph of a blond Italian sailor. On the back was written “Generoso.” Her older sister explained that their mother had had an affair in Italy with Generoso, realized she was pregnant upon her return, and decided to keep the baby. When the girls were shunted to a foster home, they took their new family’s surname of Rand. When Generosa was 17, she later told a friend, her older sister was killed by a hit-and-run driver. Her sister, she felt, had been her only protection against a home life she described as abusive. Generosa enrolled at the University of California at Irvine and became estranged from her adoptive family. After graduating in 1981, she came to New York alone and found work as an apartment agent, the lowest rung on the New York real-estate ladder.
That soon changed. In February 1986, Ted and Generosa were married. They lived on Fifth Avenue at 75th Street, then bought a town house on East 92nd Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues. Generosa had arrived.
So bitter were relations between the Ammons at the end that the happiness of their early years, confirmed by several friends, seems difficult to believe. Yet for a while they did seem a golden New York couple. At KKR, Ted went from deal to deal with giddy delight. One colleague recalls his having 700 ideas at any one time, 697 of which were ridiculous, 3 of which were brilliant. He seemed motivated more by the art of the deal than by money, the colleague recalls, even when he became KKR’s point man for RJ Reynolds after the mother of all LBOs, the RJR-Nabisco takeover, which blew back millions of dollars to every KKR partner involved. At home he listened to jazz, a passion since childhood, and let his strong-willed wife manage the interior decorating as well as the couple’s uptown-downtown social life.
Freed to indulge her love of art, Generosa created wall sculptures from disparate materials such as paper and string. Soon they filled the walls of the town house. Unfortunately, a former friend says, no gallery in the city volunteered to exhibit them. “She never did get her art shown anywhere,” one observer recalls. Still, her husband bought her an enormous loft on West Broadway in SoHo where she could pursue her avocation. “She would play the role of downtrodden artist,” the former friend recalls, “but she was in this glorious double loft with windows all along the side. It was like Marie Antoinette with her sheep.” Generosa mingled with other downtown artists such as David Row and John Zinsser, and often invited them up to the 92nd Street town house for dinner. “On the one hand she wanted to be part of this artistic group,” says the friend, “but she also wanted it known that she was the wife of a rich guy and could pull the strings.” This person adds, “I always found it strange that, for a couple who was their age, and with their money, they had this need to create a group. It was as if they didn’t have real friends. They were always saying, ‘Invite anyone over you want'”.
Increasingly, friends say, they noted disquieting behavior on Generosa’s part. She got angry, it seemed, at the slightest provocation. Usually what set her off was the suspicion that someone was betraying or rejecting her. “The minute she felt that rejection,” the former friend recalls, “she was like a woman out of control. A fear arose in her. It’s almost like there was a trigger.” When that happened, Generosa was not a pleasant sight. “We’ve all been upset,” says the friend, “but when she does it, physically she’s in your face, with this kind of ‘I’m going to get you.’ And there’s no talking to her.”
One by one, couples who had become friends of the Ammons’, drawn mostly by Ted’s easygoing charm and wit, found themselves “iced out,” as one put it. One friend says she provoked an outburst when she declined Generosa’s invitation to be a summerlong houseguest. The friend had talked to Generosa almost every day; suddenly the friendship was over. A year or so later, the friend says, she saw Generosa at a benefit and approached her to say hello. “Get away from me!” Generosa shrieked. “You get away from me!” The friend spent a lot of time wondering why Ted endured behavior that seemed to be becoming so manipulative and controlling. “I think because there was a vulnerability to her which he could see, and that made him feel more secure.” Ted described life with Generosa to another friend as “walking on eggshells” as he tried to avoid the next explosion.
In most respects, the Ammons seemed to lead an ever more enviable life. They spent weekends in Bedford, New York, where Generosa became a serious rider and won her share of ribbons, many in shows as far away as Florida. In 1992, Ted shocked his KKR partners by announcing his departure from the firm. “When I wake up in the morning, I want to look at a different range of mountains,” he told The Wall Street Journal. He knew he could double his $50 million faster if he stayed, but he wanted the challenge of starting his own firm. Soon he bought up a company that produced newspaper advertising inserts. Unglamorous as it was, Ted had a vision for it. He thought he could build a national powerhouse, establish ties with newspapers all over the country, then find other products to sell them. He called his gambit Big Flower Press because, as he explained to a friend, when he and Generosa were driving to East Hampton with their newly adopted twins, they passed a field of sunflowers that made one of the children call out, “Big flower!”
The Ammons had tried for some time to conceive a child of their own, resorting to in vitro efforts. When that failed, they went to the Ukraine to adopt twins, a boy and a girl, about two years old. At Ammon’s memorial service, one friend would recall how deliriously happy Ted was upon their return, with a little towheaded child in each arm. Generosa’s reaction was harder to read. Some time before, one former friend recalls, “I’d asked if she wanted kids. She did not. She had spent a lot of time in an orphanage, she said, and she’d been abused there. The whole prospect of children was too painful for her.” Another friend from the time recalls wincing at Generosa’s efforts with the children. “It was stressful to watch.”
In anticipation of the children, and also to accommodate Generosa’s growing passion for renovating and redecorating houses, in 1992 the Ammons bought the house at 59 Middle Lane in East Hampton. They paid $2.7 million for a long, low, one-story house owned by Mr. and Mrs. William Lord, an Old Westbury family related to W. Averell Harriman. Their daughter-in-law, Pam Lord, a nationally known gardener, agreed to help the Ammons landscape the property. But when Generosa announced she wanted all yellow plants in the front and all blue plants in the back, Pam Lord beat a hasty retreat.
As the house morphed into a two-story English-style home in the manner of Edwin Lutyens, with twin front gables, various dormers, and an overhanging roof meant to evoke the look and spirit of a thatched cottage, Generosa clashed with one contractor after another. At her urging, architect Jeff Gibbons left his perch at Peter Marino Architects to go out on his own with the Ammons as his first clients. “She basically left me crumpled up on the side of the road,” Gibbons recalls. After three years of bullying, he says, the end came when Generosa heard Gibbons casually explaining to a third person what he’d done with the East Hampton house. “You’re not telling people you designed my house, are you?” she exclaimed. Gibbons was stunned. “Well,” he managed finally, “who did?” “I did!” Generosa declared. “You only copied things out of books.” Gibbons claims he was stiffed on his last bill; when he remonstrated, he says, Generosa threatened to put him out of business with her high-priced lawyers.
Like Gibbons, landscaper Peter Cicero let the lure of a big new client lead him to start his own business, and came to regret it. One day Cicero went with Generosa to the nursery to choose tulips. “Now, you know, tulips look one shade in the morning light,” he says, “and a different shade in evening light.” Cicero planted 600 tulips of the shade Generosa chose. He says that weekend he drove up to find her in the garden, “her hair all a mop,” pulling out the 600 tulips “like a wild boar.” They were the wrong shade, Generosa declared. Cicero claims he was ordered to pay for the tulips himself—or else. “She was always invoking Skadden Arps,” her law firm, recalls one contractor. Cicero says he had to pay for the yellow roses that Generosa ripped out along the front fence, too, because their shade was wrong. And he had to remove the trees he had planted by the front door, also at his own cost, when Generosa learned they didn’t grow red berries. Once, Cicero says, Generosa called his bookkeeper at five a.m. to rant about bubbles in the pool. What was wrong with them? the bookkeeper asked groggily. Generosa shouted, “They’re blowing the wrong way!”
Another contractor had similar problems with Generosa, but tried to see her better side. “She did have vision. And she was genuinely creative,” the contractor says, remembering in particular the mosaics she designed in the bathrooms. “I sort of admired her as a woman; she was really powerful.” Still, that power could be scary. “One time when she was angry at me, she told me that ‘my mother died of insanity!,’ that she’d had to struggle to be where she was, and that she would be damned if anyone was going to take that away from her.”
By 1999, Ammon’s Big Flower Press had grown very big indeed, a publicly traded amalgam of 32 acquisitions with nearly $2 billion in gross annual revenues. Now, he felt, it was time to sell. Ammon approached Boston financier Tom Lee and suggested a friendly buyout. Lee took the company private with the help of investment banker Roger Altman, a close friend of Ammon’s and, as it happened, his neighbor on East 92nd Street. Ammon spun off a piece of the company and used it to start Chancery Lane Capital, a sort of “mini-KKR,” as one colleague put it, doing what Ammon loved best: scouting for deals. He was now a very, very rich man, still young, still vigorous enough to run long distances and take bicycle trips in Europe. Everything was great except his personal life: it was falling apart.
For some time, the friends whom Generosa hadn’t iced out had noticed growing tensions in the Ammons’ marriage. “She used to correct him in front of people,” one friend observed. At a parent-teacher function, another friend says, one of the mothers was talking to Ted when Generosa came over and shouted at the woman to stop flirting with her husband. Socially, in the Hamptons, they seemed to flounder. “The clubs and socializing weren’t his bailiwick,” says one friend of Ted’s. One couple who traveled with them in the late 90s says Generosa had become “a rough blade.” More than one colleague calling Ted at home on business got an earful from Generosa that left them shaking. When the Ammons announced that for the sake of the children they were moving to England and would live there full-time, they fooled almost no one: friends saw the move as a last-ditch effort to rekindle a marriage.
Ted agreed to the move, but stayed in New York to sell Big Flower, living at the Lowell Hotel, on East 63rd Street, on weekdays after the 92nd Street town house was sold, spending weekends in England at Coverwood, a manor house in Surrey, which Generosa had done over in her thoroughgoing way. One female friend wondered if he was having an affair: what handsome, wealthy man alone in New York would not? she reasoned. Apparently, Generosa thought so, too. She evidently hired private investigators to tail her husband and later came to believe that Ted was involved with a beautiful New York investment banker who specialized in leveraged buyouts. One colleague describes the banker as “a little older version of Gwyneth Paltrow. A willowy blonde. Her looks are excellent but just part of the package.” A friend of Ted’s calls her “bright, New York sophisticated, a very savvy girl—the very antithesis of Generosa.” The banker earned millions of dollars a year. She had a house in the Hamptons. Worst of all, Generosa later came to believe the woman had just had Ted’s baby.
Resolutely, Generosa came back from England in the summer of 2000, the children in tow, to initiate divorce proceedings. With the couple’s mutual friends, she gave no quarter. “All you had to do was say hello to Ted and that was that,” one former friend recalls. If she heard that Ted had had dinner with mutual friends, she’d call the friends the next morning and declare, in a rage, that she never wanted to talk to them again. “She cut everyone off,” says a former ally. “She didn’t have a friend in the world.”
Reportedly hiring and firing divorce lawyers one after another, Generosa made extraordinary demands. According to one source, she wanted half of Ted’s fortune, and claimed that he was worth closer to $300 million than $100 million. She explained to V.F. in a letter sent through an intermediary that her late husband had wanted “an amicable divorce in which everything would be shared … but thereafter he took the very different course of both hoarding income and assets and concealing assets even after repeated disclosure orders by our state supreme court.” One knowledgeable observer reports that Ted was “in full compliance” and that his legal team provided 45,000 pages of financial records in discovery.
Possibly, some Internet investments raised Generosa’s expectations unduly. One was a stake of about l.7 million shares in a publicly traded Internet-advertising firm called 24/7 Media. At its peak, the stock was trading at $69 a share, making Ammon’s investment worth $113 million. When dot-com stocks began collapsing in the spring of 2000, the stake’s value plummeted: today, with 24/7 Media trading at about 30 cents a share, Ammon’s l.7 million shares are worth about $250,000. One colleague described Ammon’s Internet investments as “a saltshaker at the banquet table.” Another close source called them a sizable part of his fortune.
With a husband’s assets in so many pots, their values rising and falling with the market, any embittered spouse would have had her lawyers jockey in court over his net worth. But few spouses would have made Generosa’s alimony demands. They reportedly included $50,000 annually for a bodyguard, $50,000 for a housekeeper, $50,000 for a chef, $50,000 for a driver, $30,000 for a gardener, and $100,000 for an assistant, not to mention $60,000 in residential maintenance. This was only for her life in New York. Coverwood, the manor home in Surrey, reportedly required an additional $100,000 of maintenance a year. Plus, one source said, Generosa demanded $180,000 a month in basic living expenses. She proposed to cost her husband more than $2.5 million a year even for a time after he parted with half of the $300 million fortune Generosa felt he possessed, including nearly all the family’s real estate: Coverwood in Surrey, the East Hampton house, her West Broadway loft, and her new home—the town house at 10 East 87th Street, that is.
In the summer of 2000, Ted had bought a 10th-floor apartment at 1125 Fifth Avenue, thinking Generosa and the children might live there. But Generosa preferred the embassy-wide town house she had found just east of Fifth, so Ted moved into the apartment. One source reports that Ted paid $9 million for the town house. A renovation budget of $1 million was allegedly agreed on by both sides. Work began in about September 2000. As a temporary residence, Generosa moved into the elegant Stanhope Hotel on Fifth Avenue. By now, as one observer put it, she was traveling with an entourage of servants wherever she went. At the Stanhope she took a $1,500-a-night suite for herself, a large room for her children and the nanny, and at least two more rooms for members of the town-house work crew. Soon enough, one of those workmen virtually moved into her suite.
Daniel Pelosi, 38, a tall, lean, gauntly handsome electrician from Long Island, had a fairly unimpressive résumé. By his own admission he also had a history of drug and alcohol abuse, acknowledged when he filed suit after a work-related accident, claiming a back injury had led to his excesses. He appears to have married young, because the eldest of his three children is a 19-year-old daughter; all three children currently live on Long Island with his wife, from whom he’s now getting divorced. But if Pelosi’s had been a hard-luck story until now, his fortunes began to look up dramatically after landing the town-house job with Generosa.
Pelosi wasn’t merely the electrician. He was the head of the crew. As such, he began recommending one elaborate and expensive fix after another, a source who was close to Ted says. The pipes would have to be replaced, the I beams moved. By late fall the town house had been thoroughly gutted. By then, too, he and Generosa had become an item.
The happy couple’s day started with breakfast at the hotel each morning for the whole entourage, at a cost of about $500. They paid the bellman $50 to walk Generosa’s dog, $100 for bringing their car from the hotel’s garage (that on top of the hotel’s $38 daily parking fee). The bills forwarded to Ammon totaled about $70,000 a month, a source reports.
The couple became a fixture at the Stanhope’s tiny bar. At dinner, Pelosi left tips of $100, sometimes $200. The tips almost, but not quite, compensated for what one observer describes as the couple’s boorish and abusive behavior. If Generosa saw a hotel employee talking to her husband when he came to pick up the children, the source adds, she would fly into a rage and try to get him fired. In the bar, she would sometimes yell at guests, “I know you’re a spy for my husband!” On New Year’s Eve, as guests watched the festivities on television, she shouted, “Turn that television off! I want it off!” Pelosi, dressed in fancy new clothes, could be obnoxious, too. “I know guys in the Mafia,” he would say.
For Ammon, one source says, paying enormous bills to his wife’s workman lover was irksome enough—especially as the town-house renovation costs went from the agreed-upon $l million to $3 million. Far more troublesome was Pelosi’s presence with his children: “That made him crazy,” says a friend.
Worse, one observer says, Generosa had reneged on an initial pledge of joint custody. She was going for sole custody. Meanwhile, Ted told friends, she repeatedly failed to produce the children for his scheduled time with them. Once, on a weekend when the children were supposed to be with Generosa, he went to the theater with friends. At intermission he apparently made a phone call, and his face grew taut. Generosa, he told his friends, had decided to go to East Hampton with Pelosi instead, and had dropped the children off with the doorman at 1125 Fifth Avenue. Grimly, Ted sped home.
Ted told several friends that Generosa was doing her best to poison the children’s view of their father. She reportedly told them he had Mob connections. She said that he’d stolen money, that he had had their phones bugged because he was spying on them. According to one source, Ted claimed Generosa even told the children that a big satellite dish on top of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, across Fifth Avenue from the Stanhope, had been installed by their father as another means to spy on them. Ted said he had to take the children into the museum and get authorities to explain the dish.
Certainly, Generosa believed Ted was being unfaithful. In the letter to V.F., she said that her marriage ended because “Ted had taken up with [a woman from his past] and was also having an affair with another woman by whom he had a baby.” Yet several of the couple’s friends to whom she related these details found them puzzling. The blonde investment banker reportedly lives with the son of a well-known Manhattan businessman. Though the banker declined to return several messages left at her office, friends of Ted’s say her child, now three years old, is likely not his. “It was my impression that … if there had been a romantic involvement, which he never once fessed up to, that it was sort of past,” observes one close friend. “And in recent times it was my impression that she was just a real good friend of his. I would be astonished if the child was actually his.”
In the last weeks of Ted’s life, the ordeal had begun to wind down. There were still courtroom confrontations: Generosa would arrive with her entourage, including Pelosi, and rail at Ted’s lawyers, her face contorted with anger, her voice “drippingly sarcastic.” But her own lawyers had managed to persuade her that Ted’s representations of his net worth were basically correct. He was actually worth substantially less than $100 million after debts and taxes were taken into account. So Generosa would receive between $20 and $25 million, which would include her town house at 10 East 87th; other properties, such as the Surrey estate, would be sold. Her demand of full custody was rejected by a judge. Instead, custody would be split: one week for Generosa, the next for Ted. Generosa was reportedly resigned to the deal, but angry and unhappy about it. Final papers were being drawn up. None had been signed.
In another twist, Ted’s longtime house servants filed suit against him on October 17 for several large sums ostensibly owed them. Steven Guderian and Bruce Riedner are a pair described by one former family friend as Laurel and Hardy: one tall and gaunt, the other short and heavyset. They had worked for the Ammons apparently without complaint for a decade and were, according to a friend of Ted’s, close to Generosa and part of her entourage. Now they were aggrieved. They said Ted had gone back on a promise to pay the costs of their relocation back to the U.S. from England, a sum they claimed to be $137,690.91. They said that Ted had promised to buy them a home upon the termination of their employment, and to give them at least $2 million in cash or securities. They said they had paid family bills totaling nearly $25,000 out of their own pockets and not been reimbursed. (“Monies advanced to security guards: $3,250 … Equestrian bills: $2,898.67 … ”) In addition, they said that Ted had cheated them out of at least $750,000 in Internet stock. The moneys sought totaled more than $7.5 million. A source close to Ted says he “laughed” at the lawsuit.
Still, to his friends, several of whom had re-established ties with him after the split with Generosa, Ted seemed happier than he had in a long time. New deals were in the air, and as part of a recent phase he had embraced philanthropy. In 1996 he had stunned his alma mater, Bucknell, with a $15 million gift, had become the chairman of Jazz at Lincoln Center in March of 2001, and had just begun helping plan a temporary memorial at the World Trade Center for the Municipal Art Society. “Ted was just in fact finding his civic roots,” says the society’s chairman, Philip Howard.
The week before he died, Ted had dinner at Primola, a fancy East Side restaurant, with a longtime buddy. Overall, recalls the friend, Ted seemed optimistic, even though, he told him, Generosa was still unnerving the children. Not long before that, Ted told another friend, Alexa had broken down in tears in front of her father. But he felt confident that, once the papers were signed and he began spending significant time with the children, they would “heal.”
A week after Ammon’s body was discovered, nearly 1,000 mourners filled Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center and heard Wynton Marsalis lead an all-star jazz band in a musical tribute. Among the speakers was Ammon’s partner, Mark Angelson, who addressed the children directly in their front-row seats. “This is a very confusing time for you guys,” he said with an emphasis that no one in the hall could miss, “but don’t be confused about this—your father adored you.” At the request of Ammon’s sister, Sandra Williams, Generosa had agreed not to be present at the service. Instead, her lawyers reported, she had attended a Mass for her late husband earlier in the day. She reportedly had her husband’s ashes with her: he had been cremated after an autopsy. The children were with her. After the service at Alice Tully Hall, their godparents returned them to her. They were hers now, hers alone.
Some days later, Daniel Pelosi made an obligatory appearance at East Hampton town court to face charges of driving while intoxicated. The police report was curious. Pelosi’s car had been sighted weaving on Dunemere Lane, less than a mile from the Middle Lane house, at 3:43 a.m. on September 16. When he saw the red lights flashing behind him, Pelosi had pulled over, jumped from the front seat into the back, and pretended to have pulled over in order to go to sleep. This was not persuasive to the police, who noted in reports that he had failed several roadside sobriety tests and refused to take a Breathalyzer test. At the hearing, two husky Suffolk County detectives converged on Pelosi’s lawyer outside the courtroom, asking to speak to his client. “Tell him not to be afraid,” one of the detectives said. “We just want to ask him about the security system.” The lawyer respectfully declined to let his client speak to them.
Pelosi, it turned out, was one of the few who knew the code for the high-tech security system at 59 Middle Lane. The others included Ted, Generosa, and some hired help. “Mr. Pelosi absolutely denies any involvement in the murder,” says his lawyer Edward Burke Jr. So does Generosa.
The detectives were also referred to a defense lawyer named Mike Shaw, who would be handling any questions about the murder for Generosa Ammon. Shaw has an interesting record. In 1996 he defended Niki Rossakis, the so-called “hubby-killer,” accused of having shot her sleeping husband in their Queens, New York, home. Rossakis was found guilty.
On Wednesday, November l4, a document of nearly 50 pages was filed quietly in Room 504 of the Gothic surrogate’s court building in Lower Manhattan. It was Ted Ammon’s will. By its terms, Ammon bequeathed nearly his entire estate to Generosa: virtually all financial assets (except for a tax-exempt gift of $675,000 to his children) and all personal property and effects. The will was dated August 22, l995. Throughout the whole yearlong divorce proceeding, Ammon had not had his will rewritten.
Because the divorce papers had not been signed, Generosa remains his lawful spouse. The entire estate, as a result, would pass to her tax-free.
On November 16, at the surrogate’s court, a petition was filed by J. P. Morgan Chase. The bank is a co-executor with Generosa. Under normal circumstances, the bank would simply facilitate the transfer of the deceased’s estate to his spouse, as the will directs. These, however, are not normal circumstances. After stating that Ammon’s estate totals $81.4 million (less $30 million in liabilities)—investments and partnerships, $30.5 million; real estate, $22 million; cash, $l4.5 million; other investments, $l0 million; securities and brokerage accounts, $2.4 million; personal and household effects, $1 million; and artwork, $l million—the bank noted that a homicide investigation was pending, and asked that no assets be transferred until the investigation was concluded. It also requested to be named the sole executor. “The bank has decided to take sides here,” fumes one adviser to Generosa, “which is very unusual.”
Generosa’s lawyers filed a cross-petition to have her remain a co-executor, and to have the will executed as written. According to one family adviser, the matter was one of financial urgency: Generosa was strapped. “Because the bank is hostile, Mrs. Ammon is getting no money,” the adviser explains. “She’s out borrowing money! She was getting $50,000 a month in basic expenses from the state supreme court. The court was entertaining a request to provide a lot more to complete the construction of her new home. She’s not a money person. She’s just had no money to pay basic obligations to her family. The hostility of the bank in this regard is just horrendous.”
At least, the family adviser suggests, the detectives seem close to solving the murder. They’ve told the adviser they are “closing doors.” “I think the person or persons who killed Ted will either prove to be an enraged creditor or an enraged boyfriend,” the adviser to Generosa theorizes. Why does the adviser suspect a gay-murder angle? Because of what Generosa has confided about Ted’s behavior in the couple’s last months together. “He became impotent with her, and that was unusual,” the adviser says. “He clearly appeared to be losing affection.”
For almost two weeks after the murder, the house at 59 Middle Lane was kept fully lit all night. Apparently, this was to aid the security guards assigned to the house. From the road, it made for an eerie sight, the whole place ablaze with light against a dark, misty sky. Then abruptly one night the lights were turned off, and the house stood utterly dark. This, explained Chief Sarris of the East Hampton Village Police, was because the property had been turned back over to the family.
It was Generosa’s now.
– Michael Shnayerson