LOS ANGELES — Billionaire real estate mogul Donald Bren testified Thursday in the child support case brought by his two adult children, saying he was shocked when his then-lover told him decades ago that she was pregnant with their first child.
Bren, one of the nation’s richest men, has an estimated net worth of $12 billion and has spent a lifetime protecting his privacy.
Twenty-two-year-old Christie Bren and 18-year-old David Bren have sued him for $400,000 a month in child support retroactive to the time they were born. That comes to about $100 million.
The 78-year-old Irvine Co. chairman told a courtroom that he suggested to Jennifer McKay Gold that they create a legal agreement to provide for child care. He said they never talked about marriage or having a family.
Attorney Hillel Chodos, representing the children, painted their father Wednesday as a high-living executive who has two California homes, a New York apartment, a Sun Valley ranch, two yachts and five private jets.
“Donald Bren is able to live and does live like a maharajah,” said Chodos, adding Bren once told Gold he spent $3 million to $5 million a month on personal expenses.
Gold will testify that he promised to always claim the children as his and to retain a parental relationship with them, Chodos said in opening statements to the jury Wednesday.
Bren’s lawyer, John Quinn, said Wednesday that Bren didn’t make or break any promises regarding the children. He just had no relationship with them, he said.
“This is not a case about whether Mr. Bren was a good father, a bad father or an indifferent father,” Quinn said. “He wasn’t around so he wasn’t a father for most of the time. … He’s never going to be to those children father of the year.”
Quinn also said his client’s personal expenses were probably closer to $125,000 and the planes were part of a private jet leasing company he owns.
Quinn showed jurors a series of four legal agreements involving child support entered into by Gold each time she became pregnant and after the children were born. The contracts, beginning in 1988, rose from $3,500 a month to $18,000 a month between 1992 and 2002.