The estranged wife of billionaire and newspaper owner Richard Mellon Scaife, the Pittsburgh banking heir turned media mogul, was awarded $725,000 a month in temporary support during their acrimonious divorce, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Sunday.
Scaife, 75, and his second wife, Margaret Ritchie Battle Scaife, are battling on several fronts, from how to assess and divide his wealth to custody of a yellow Labrador retriever named Beauregard, the newspaper said.
A judge may also have to decide whether the $20 million to $30 million a year she claims he spends to support the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review constitutes a business loss, as he contends, or spending on a hobby, as she sees it. Scaife owns the newspaper – a rival to the Post-Gazette – along with the Tribune-Review of Greensburg and several smaller dailies and weeklies.
Forbes magazine this year estimated Scaife’s wealth at $1.2 billion, ranking him No. 799 on its list of the world’s billionaires. The divorce papers, though sealed, were available online for several days last month on Allegheny County court’s Web site, the Post-Gazette said.
“Wife cannot possibly expend the guideline amount of support no matter how lavishly she chooses to live,” Scaife’s lawyers wrote in court papers seeking to have the award reduced.
Margaret Scaife’s lawyers, Gary Gentile and William Pietragallo II, put his monthly income from earnings on nine trusts at $3.9 million.
Records filed in the case suggest Scaife has spent $140 million to $244 million, depending on whom you believe, to subsidize the Tribune-Review since its inception in 1992. Scaife’s other papers are generally profitable, the divorce papers state.
Tribune-Review Editor Frank Craig, reached Sunday by cell phone in Japan, said he had not seen the story and declined comment to The Associated Press. Ralph Martin, the paper’s president and chief executive officer, did not return a message left at his office Sunday.
The reclusive Scaife is known as a staunch political conservative who spent millions funding a series of investigations into President Clinton.
Margaret Scaife, 60, kept a separate residence in Pittsburgh after the couple married in June 1991 and has been arrested twice since their split over domestic confrontations at his nearby mansion, the Post-Gazette reported. The trespass and assault charges were later dismissed.
She filed for divorce last year alleging infidelity, while he filed divorce papers this year, the Post-Gazette said. They do not have a prenuptial agreement, the newspaper said. He has two children from his first marriage to the former Frances Gilmore.
Margaret Scaife’s alimony could grow higher depending on how Judge Alan Hertzberg views his income. He has asked for briefs due Thursday before making a final decision on the temporary award, which was set on a preliminary basis by a hearing officer last year.
Albert Momjian, a divorce attorney in Philadelphia, said he had obtained the previous $275,000 record for a temporary alimony order in Pennsylvania.
“I can’t conceive of any alimony amount that would be that large,” Momjian said of the Scaife case. “That’s gigantic.”
Lawyers for both spouses declined comment for the Post-Gazette story, citing the order sealing the file, and none returned phone messages left at their offices Sunday by the AP.
“It’s highly confidential and we’re not really prepared to talk about it at this point. I don’t think anybody will,” Scaife’s lawyer, H. Yale Gutnick, told the Post-Gazette.