TODAY | September 05, 2010
LESTER HOLT, co-host: Now to the growing questions about a wealthy heiress and her massive fortune. At 104 years old, Huguette Clark is lying in a hospital bed, and the two men handling her fortune are under investigation. The question is whether they're mishandling her funds. And now, for the first time , the woman's family is stepping into the fight. NBC 's Jeff Rossen tells us more.
JEFF ROSSEN reporting: Who wouldn't be happy with just one mansion? Huguette Clark owns three, all perfectly manicured, all sit empty. This one in Santa Barbara hugs the California coast, its value over $100 million. Her estate in Connecticut worth over 20 million. It's empty. And Huguette Clark also owns the largest apartment on New York 's prestigious Fifth Avenue , 42 rooms worth over $100 million. It's empty, too. According to msnbc.com, Clark hasn't seen any of them in over 20 years. In fact, she's been living in seclusion here, inside a Manhattan hospital room, surrounded by her French doll collection. Clark 's lifestyle is so mysterious, this is the last known picture ever taken of her in 1930 . Today, at 104 years old, Huguette Clark 's personal worth is an estimated half a billion dollars.
BILL DEDMAN reporting: What we had was a feature story about an elderly woman with a lot of money and mysterious empty mansions. But now we have an investigation.
ROSSEN: A criminal investigation into these two men, Huguette Clark 's
gatekeepers and closest advisers: her lawyer, Wallace Bock , and her accountant, Irving Kamsler . According to msnbc.com, Bock quietly arranged to sell Clark 's rare Stradivarius violin for $6 million and her Renoir painting for 23.5 million. And now the Web site reports the lawyer and accountant are trying to sell her Connecticut estate for $24 million. So where's the money going?
DEDMAN: What we have here is a kindly woman. Maybe she doesn't have all the information about what's been done with her money.
ROSSEN: Since Huguette Clark never had any children, no apparent heirs, these two men reportedly control everything, but on Friday Clark 's nieces and nephews went to court, filing this petition against Bock and Kamsler , saying they've committed "acts of mismanagement and dishonesty" and have "abused the trust of Ms. Clark ." They're requesting a "restraining order" to keep them away from Huguette Clark 's money. Cynthia Garcia worked for Wallace Bock and spoke last week with NBC 's Bob Dotson .
Ms. CYNTHIA GARCIA: He would write a check from her account in his name, deposit it or cash it.
BOB DOTSON reporting: How much money are we talking about?
Ms. GARCIA: Millions. It's always millions. Always.
ROSSEN: Bock 's spokesman tells NBC News he "continues to act in the best interest of Ms. Clark . Any allegations to the contrary is without support." And Kamsler 's lawyer told us, he's "acted both professionally and diligently. It is unfortunate and questionable that Ms. Clark 's distant relatives are ignoring her decision to live a private life."
ROSSEN: But in the new court papers, Huguette Clark 's relatives say her mental abilities are uncertain, and now they're asking the court for an independent guardian to handle her massive estate, a fortune she inherited from her father, a former copper magnet. Now, with her mansions empty and her handlers under investigation, Huguette Clark remains holed up in a hospital room, control of her wealth now in the hands of a judge. For TODAY, Jeff Rossen , NBC News, New York.