Battling Boeskys

  • He was the man who coined one of the most famous phrases of the 1980s: "Greed is good." Apparently it still is. Last week in a Manhattan courtroom, right next door to the Woody Allen-vs.-Mia Farrow soap opera, Ivan Boesky, 56, out of prison but exiled from Wall Street, began his latest takeover attempt. He is demanding nearly $50 million in alimony from his former wife, Seema Boesky, 50ish, a wealthy heiress in her own right. He claims that he made her "rich beyond her imagination," and that even though some of these riches resulted from his own illegal activities, he still deserves half of them.

    The trial is a measure of just how far the '80s' flashiest arbitrager has fallen. Seema denies that she has any of his money, and even insists that he built his fortune in part using her family's money. She tearfully recounted the torment that has resulted from her former husband's crimes. Charities returned her checks, schools that had once taken millions removed the Boesky name from buildings, and she was threatened by one of the bankers Boesky % helped bring to trial. "Overnight I went from someone who felt proud of who she was to a social outcast," she sobbed.

    Boesky's latest pleading continues the seven-year tailspin that started when he was caught by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1986 in an insider- trading probe. A self-proclaimed vampire, Boesky was renowned as the "king of the arbitragers" in a high-risk game that thrived on the blood spilled by corporate raiders in the 1980s. Before he was caught, his net worth was estimated at more than $200 million. Though Boesky reduced his penalties by leading investigators to other investors who were profiting from insider information, including junk-bond king Michael Milken, he paid $100 million in fines and served 22 months in a minimum-security prison. He was released in 1990.

    Now that he's out, Boesky claims he's broke, and from all appearances, he is. Until the alimony suit is resolved, Seema Boesky has been ordered by the New York matrimonial court to pay her former husband $15,000 a month. While he receives this stipend, he also has the use of the $2.3 million home in La Jolla, California, that Seema bought in better times for him to use as a postprison retreat. Seema has already tried to seize that house, putting it on the market when Boesky filed his alimony suit, but Ivan's lawyers successfully persuaded the judge to allow him to stay. And though a victory in court may free her from her husband's claims, Seema's legal problems are far from over. While Ivan settled the majority of his legal claims with his guilty plea, she now says she faces lawsuits of more than $250 million as a result of her husband's crimes.

    In spite of his protestations to the contrary, many of Boesky's former colleagues say he must have whisked a million or two into an offshore haven. Despite their best efforts, however, investigators have been unable to find it. Considering his own admission that his lawsuit is "humiliating" and the fact that his plea agreement would be revoked if he lies, Ivan Boesky, who built a fortune on fraud, might just be telling the truth.